Cyril C. NwokejiFriday, October 2, 2015




he year was 1985, the month was August. The occasion was the under-17 World cup competition, in the peoples' republic of China. Nigeria's under - 17 World Cup team, was one of the African representatives to the 1985 Under-17 World cup competition. The team was unsung and unheralded; and further depleted by the loss of the team's regular goalkeeper and skipper and a reliable defender, who abandoned the team in rather unceremonious circumstances, in the lead up to the competition.

To further worsen matters, the Super Eagles had just been eliminated from the 1986 World cup competition, in far away Tunis, by Tunisia; and Nigerians were thrown into 'mourning.' Consequently, the least that interested Nigerians, at that time, was the unknown, unheralded and unsung under-17 World cup competition.

Thus, the World Golden Eaglets, then known as the Under-17 national team, left the shores of Nigeria, virtually unannounced. The only mention of their departure, in the press, was that shortly before departing for China, they were mobilised, to form a sort of 'guard of honour,' for the returning, defeated, dejected and dispirited Super Eagles players, who flew in from Tunisia; as a way of shoring up their morale, after their World cup ouster. A consolation of sorts !

The World Golden Eaglets, thus begon the under-17 World cup adventure, in far away China, virtually, unknown to Nigerians. The team quietly but efficiently went through the preliminaries, and qualified for the quarter-finals. The Nigerian Television Authorities, N.T.A, relayed the recorded matches of the World Golden Eaglets, in the evenings, to Nigerians, because of the time difference with China. This fact not withstanding, Nigerians didn't take much notice. The Golden Eaglest, meanwhile, continued their quiet, but very effective 'revolution,' in the land of revolution, by effectively and efficiently discharging of their opponents. It was not until they got to the finals that Nigerians took notice! Nigerians became excited that a Nigerian team had for the first time gotten to the finals of a FIFA World cup tournament! All Nigerian were united in prayers for a successfull outcome of the encounter with Germany, then West Germany, in the finals. While Nigerians prayed for success of their team, the organisers - Kodak - apparently prayed for a different outcome, as they apparently wished for a German victory, since that would be better for business! However, the highly determined Nigerians - the World Golden Eaglets - reasoned differently, and put their strategy to very effective use during the final match.

At around 3pm local time, the NTA, interrupted regular programming, to announce the hitherto unexpected: the World Golden Eaglets, had just won the under -17 World cup, in the peoples' Republic of China, after having defeated Germany, 2-0, in the finals. Nigerians were thrown into extacy, as they jumped for joy, and danced in the streets, at this huge milestone, in the Nations's soccer adventurism! The NTA, promised to relay the recorded match, at 10pm local time, that same day. Nigerians were excited and stayed glued to their tv sets at the appointed time, as if the match was to be relayed live !

What did Nigerians see in the final match ?: They saw a team that lined up the following players: Goalkeeper, Lucky Agbonsevbafe; the defenders were: Duere Tuenwonrimi, at right back; Skipper Nduka Ugbade, at left back, who was noticeable with his power-packed overlapping runs; Binebi Numa, at centre-half back; and the late Kingsley Aikhionbare, with his characteristic white head band at left- half back. He reminds me of Godwin Odiye, alias 'Mr No way,' of Super Eagles fame, who also wore a characteristic head band. He played in a similar position as Godwin Odiye - left half back! The mid-field consisted of: Fatai Atere, the dimunitive, but very skillful player, who was the anchor man in mid-field; he reminds me of Mudashiru Babatunde Lawal, of blessed memory, who played a similar role in the Super Eagles of yore! The right sided offensive mid-fielder,was the charismatic Victor Igbinoba, who was not only charismatic in his playing style, with which he mesmerised opposing defences, but was so charismatic that he 'charmed ' the Nigerian ladies, many of whom were dying to date him! He was a very handsome boy indeed! The left-sided offensive mid-field,was manned by the gentle -man player: Sanni Adamu, another fine player, who excited all and sundry with his neat, spotless, 'don't-touch-me,' style of play. Sanni was a beauty to watch. His characteristically beautiful chest control of the ball was marvellous! The offensive front consisted of: right winger: Babatunde Joseph Fapetu, the young and highly talented dribbling wizard, who literally tore opposing defences to shreds with his uncanny dribbling runs down the right wing. The left winger was: Billa Momoh, who was a beauty to watch, in his dazzling dribbling runs from the left wing. The centre-forward,was Jonathan Akpoborie, the highly energetic and bustling central striker. And of course not to forget the other beautiful players like Bauldwin Bazuaye and the others, who though were not regulars, no doubt contributed immensely to the team's success. Due to limitations of the human memory, yours sincerely, cannot mention them by name.

The team was coached by: Coach Sebastian Brodericks - Imasuen, and was assisted by Chairman Christian Chukwu and Coach Bala Shamaki.

The Golden Eaglets appeared bright in their 4-3-3 formation; and went on the offensive from the blast of the refree's whistle. The didn't care much about the reputation of the Germans. But the Germans fought back giving the Golden Eaglets anxious moments. Before the end of the first half, the Golden Eaglets broke the deadlock, by going ahead, through centre-forward: Jonathan Akpoborie; who connected home with a beautiful header off a well taken corner kick, to give the Golden Eaglets, a first half lead !

In the second half, the Germans tried to fight back, but were time and again repulsed by the highly determined Golden Eaglets, who sensing victory, tightened all nooks and crannies behind and still tried to kill the Germans through counter-attack. In one of those well executed counter attacks, Victor Igbinoba, got a pass mid-way into the German half of the field, and surprised his team mates and the Germans, in particular, when he let go a cracking volley, with the left foot, which found safety at the far corner of the German net, for Nigeria's second and last goal! It was a very beautiful goal, one of the best, if not the best of that tournament. Yours sincerely, remembers very well that the NTA, used that goal, for many months, not only to herald the 9pm Network news, but also to display to the world, Nigeria 's superiority, in under -17 soccer !

The Golden Eaglets won the match 2-0, and thus became the maiden winners of the FIFA under-17 World cup competition! The world subsequently took notice of Nigeria, as a power house, nay emerging power house in soccer!

On arrival in Nigeria, they were given a heroes' welcome, which was in shrill contrast to the virtually no send-off they got at departure !

The Federal military government under leadership of: General Muhammadu Buhari, appreciated the gallant boys, by rewarding them appropriately. They were subsequently, re- named: "the World Golden Eaglets !"; and subsequently named " Government property," in response to the cries of Nigerians that they should be kept together to enable them bond well to be the future formidable Super Eagles. This meant the players couldn't play for clubsides; but had to be together, train together, play together, with a view to forming a great Super Eagles of the future.

This policy of making them " Government property," with benefit of hindsight, was a failed one, as the players one way or the other found a way out of the " cordon sanitair," placed on them, to pursue their soccer careers elsewhere. Thus defeating the purpose of being called " Government property," in the first place.

Secondly, only three of the members of this team made it to the Super Eagles! Thus further defeating the purpose of making them " Government property."

In conclusion, the purpose of this write-up, is two - fold:

Firstly, to caution our highly talented young players on how to actualise their dreams of being the big players of tomorrow. It doesn't make sense, 'languishing,' in a big clubside because of the fat payment gotten there, while one doesn't play competitive first team soccer. A player can only develop by playing competitively, regularly, in a fully fledged league; not with the reserves, in a reserves' league! A player who signs for a big clubside, where he doesn't get regular playing time, can go on loan to a smaller clubside, develop there and latter on go back to the big team.

Like one mentioned earlier on, only three members of the World Golden Eaglets that won the 1985 under -17 World cup, played for the Super Eagles: Nduka Ugbade, Jonathan Akpoborie and Bauldwin Bazuaye. None of them represented Nigeria, at the FIFA senior World cup tournament! What happened to their development as players ? Like as earlier stated, some of them shot themselves on the foot through wrongful approach to their development, among other contributory factors. Unfortunately, this wrongful developmental pattern, still persists till this day !

Talent is God-given, but development of it, is essentially, in human hands !

Secondly, to encourage the Nation's under-17 team who are presently in Chile for the FIFA 2015 under-17 World cup competition, to go for gold! A fifth triumph at this competition, is desirable. Nigerians can never get tired of winning soccer competitions; the nation's four earlier triumphs not withstanding.

In this spirit, one like all Nigerians, wishes the Golden Eaglet, lots of luck, in their latest adventure, to defend their hard won title of 2013. Iseeeeeeh !!!!!!