by Rachel Ogbu
Kilmarnock’s Rabiu Ibrahim, Kano Pillars’ Papa Idris, Henry Uche of Enyimba and Turkey-based Uche Kalu, were released from Nigeria’s training camp in Portugal after Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi dropped them from his preliminary squad for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Keshi made his decision after Ibrahim arrived late for the camp in Portugal, Ibrahim who was a member of the Nigeria side that won the 2007 Fifa Under-17 World Cup in South Korea, was hailed as a successor to Jay-Jay Okocha in the Nigerian midfield but more reports believe his lack of playing time with former Scottish club Celtic ultimately cost the former youth international his place.
Keshi’s decision means that Ibrahim can now concentrate on seizing a second chance in Scotland and make up for a ‘tough’ four years at Sporting Lisbon, PSV Eindhoven and Celtic.
The 21-year-old switched from Celtic to Kilmarnock last week after failing to become a first-team regular in Glasgow.
“It’s not just been tough, it’s been heartbreaking. You join a new club and you want to impress and show what you can do,” he told BBC Sport.
“I just need someone who believes in me and will give me a chance to make a contribution.
“I’m so eager to achieve something at Kilmarnock and be a success at this club because I now understand the Scottish game.
“This new year is something I am really looking forward to. Deeply, I hope to finally settle down this year.”
Keshi had already accepted he would be without Millwall defender Danny Shittu and Shola Ameobi of Newcastle United for the tournament.
Keshi is expected to announce his final 23-man squad on Tuesday, a day before the final deadline for submitting players for the tournament.
Nigeria begin their Nations Cup campaign against Burkina Faso on 21 January before Group C games against champions Zambia and finally Ethiopia.