Leon Balogun was not seen in the Super Eagles of Nigeria training camp on Monday, August 30, and it has sparked speculation that he is being witch-hunted for criticizing the Nigeria Football Federation.
The players and coaches of Nigeria’s national football team took a picture after their first day of training ahead of their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying campaign against Liberia and Cape Verde.
When the picture was shared on the official Instagram page of the Super Eagles of Nigeria, the followers of the page spotted that Leon Balogun was not present.
It was not clear why the 33-year-old Rangers of Scotland defender was not present in the picture since he was reportedly part of the 30-man list invited for the World Cup qualification round.
The Super Eagles’ first 2022 World Cup qualification match will take place in Lagos on Friday, September 3, 2021, against Liberia. After that, the Super Eagles will travel to Cape Verde to play the country’s national team on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
All UK and Spain-based players are not expected to travel with the national team to Cape Verde because the country is listed among the red list countries that still have high cases of Covid-19.
If players based in the UK and Spain travel to a red list country such players will have to self-isolate for ten days when they return to their bases.
Hence, the likes of Alex Iwobi of Everton, Wilfred Ndidi, and Kelechi Iheanacho of Leicester City will only be available for the game against Liberia in Lagos and miss out on the game against Cape Verde.
If Leon Balogun who has been a regular member of the national team since he made his debut on March 6, 2014, is not present until the end of today, August 31, it means he would not feature in the two games.
If that happens, it might tempt the critics of the FA to believe that the defender is being witch-hunted by the FA for revealing that the team is not well taken care of.
Recall that in July 2021, Leon Balogun granted “The Beautiful Game Podcast” an interview in which he revealed that the national team players are being owed match bonuses.
In the interview which was widely reported then, Balogun indicted the FA for the poor form the team sometimes exhibits, noting that the team is not being provided with proper facilities.
“You hear about other players and why can’t they perform in the Super Eagles. We have to be honest, the infrastructure, we are not being provided with the best minerals to do our job,” Balogun said.
“It starts with pitches or it starts with accommodation but it goes on to pitches and all these kinds of things.
“And as I said I’m always quite outspoken, probably I know if some people hear that they might come after me but I don’t care because that’s just how it is…
“About the bonuses, it’s not even a secret, I’ve read something recently where people in charge contradict themselves saying things have been paid then they admit they haven’t been paid.”
The Nigerian FA had since reacted to the claims of the 33-year-old defender saying that some of the inadequacies the team is facing are a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
A statement from the FA read: “The same players and coaches have been well-taken-care-of and provided the necessary facilities when things were normal, and as we work assiduously towards conquering the present challenges and seeing sunlight again, we expect the players, coaches, and administrative staff to show the same level of understanding that they have been showing over the past 18 months.”
Below is Super Eagles of Nigeria 30-man list for Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifies against Liberia and Cape Verde
Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (APOEL Nicosia, Cyprus); Daniel Akpeyi (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (FC Boavista, Portugal); Kenneth Omeruo (CD Leganes, Spain); Leon Balogun (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); William Ekong (Watford FC, England); Olaoluwa Aina (Torino FC, Italy); Jamilu Collins (SC Paderborn 07, Germany); Abdullahi Shehu (AC Omonia, Cyprus); Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto, Portugal); Kevin Akpoguma (TSG Hoffenheim, Germany)
Midfielders: Oghenekaro Etebo (Watford FC, England); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Frank Onyeka (Brentford FC, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland)
Forwards: Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Alex Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Samuel Kalu (FC Bordeaux, France); Victor Osimhen (Napoli FC, Italy); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium)
Stand-by: Terem Moffi (FC Lorient, France); Henry Onyekuru (Olympiacos FC, Greece); Chidera Ejuke (CSKA Moscow, Russia); Innocent Bonke (Malmo FF, Sweden); Valentine Ozornwafor (Sporting Charleroi, Belgium); Tyronne Ebuehi (Venezia FC, Italy); Kingsley Michael (Bologna FC, Italy)