Cyril C. NwokejiSunday, November 17, 2013




he title of my article couldn't be better. Those boys deserve whatever encomiums, praises, gifts and whatever appreciations being showerd on them, presently, for their huge success, at the recently concluded world under - 17 championship. They were indeed the very best in the world, at their level, by a considerable margin for that matter! They showed the world that the future of Nigeria's soccer, is very much assured.

I would like to give honour and praises to whom it is due, in this regard:

Firstly the NFF, must be commended for their efforts. They laid the foundation of this success, by the commencement of the under-13 soccer programme, also meant to catch them very young. They also went a step further, by ensuring that only truly under - 17 players, were recruited for the under-17 project, by ensuring that no player from the national league sides were recruited, but from the various soccer academies, scatterd all over the country and also using the "Nuclear Magnetic Resonancing ," technique, to identify truly under-17 players. The boys that represented Nigeria, at that championship, were truly under -17; thus, any suggestions by a disgruntled, disillussioned and defeated coach, to the contrary, is simply ludicrous! The NFF, also provided the necessary financial wherewithal, and were complemented in this regard, by the government of Cross -River state. One cannot but express one's sincere gratitude for these kind gestures .

The technical crew under leadership of coach Manu Garba and the backgound staff, played an immense role, in toiling day and night under sunshine and rain to ensure a solid under-17 national side was raised for Nigeria. To them we owe lots of gratitude for their efforts .

To the players, who personally bore the full brunt of the stresses and strains, needed to be endured, to be knocked into shape, as well as fighting with every sweat and blood towards ensuring we won matches, one cannot, but express one's gratitude. One recalls the heroics of goalkeeper Alampasu, who turned out to be the " tournament's safest hands." One remembers the superb displays of Skipper Musa Muhammed, as overlapping right-back. One still savours his dazzling overlapping runs; he reminds me of Yisa Shofoluwe, of the Super Eagles fame. One also remembers Kelechi Ihenacho, the best player of the tournament; a player described by the BBC commentator, as a player who is: " an offensive midfielder; a play -maker and clinical finisher, combined in one ." One also rembers Isaac Success; Awoniyi; Nwakali; Yahaya ; Edet and the other players of this wonderful under-17 team. They are all heroes who should be celebrated! One thanks them once again, for helping to further etch the name of Nigeria, in the annals of the great soccer nations of this planet.

One also remembers the good people of Nigeria, who by their thoughts, prayers and good wishes, have helped see this team through very difficult situations. My thanks to all, we are all heroes !

The pertinent question at this juncture is: where do we go from here? :

Yours sincerely will suggest that this team be given the opportunity of developing naturally to the stardom they are destined to attain. They should, together with the technical crew, be allowed to graduate to the Flying Eagles, the nations' under-20 side; and from there gradually graduate further, may be via the under -23 side, to the Super Eagles.

The players should be careful about their individual career choices. They should not allow themselves to be exploited by some "gold -seeking ," "money wolves ," in the form of players' agents.These agents, in concert with some big soccer club sides, may lure these unsuspecting players, with the allure of cash, into big clubsides, where they will almost certainly land in the "reserve " side of these clubsides and rot away. Certain former under-17 players, have vallen in to this unfortunate "trap, " and as a consequence, sometimes ,seen their promising careers come to an abrupt end. Players like: Chrisantus Macaulay; to some extent Rabiu Ibrahim; Stanley Okoro; Ramon Azeez; Sanni Emmanuel and so on, are no more as promising as they were, when they first broke into limelight. There is nothing wrong with young players going to big clubsides; but they should ensure they play regularly, failure of which should make them pressurize the clubsides, to send them out on loan, to lower ranked club sides, where they can play regularly. A good example in this regard, is Kenneth Omeruo, who was bought by Chelsea and loaned out. Today he is Nigeria's first choice centre-half, at just 19 years of age! The up and coming younger players, should take a cue from Omeruo's example!

The NFF, could be of use in this regard, by counseling these promising prodigies, on which way forward. Their future success would be in the national interest. Players like : Fernando Torres; Iniesta; Xavi; Luis Figo, to mention but a few, were once promising junior internationals, who with the right guidance, became successful senior players. This aspect of our soccer develpment : guiding the promising younger players' development to stardom, is still at it's infancy and needs development, this is the reason we presently lose, many promising young talents, even after the initial success of victory at the under-17 level. The NFF, should please take note !

On a final note, one cannot over emphasize the fact that, while reveling in the euphoria of today's success, we should not forget to harness properly and completely it's consequences, for an even greater success tomorrow, which is the reason we strove for today's success in the first place.