Cyril C. NwokejiTuesday, November 17, 2015




ho says that Nigeria is not a world's football power house?; who says that the country doesn't have an enviable and almost inexhaustible depth of soccer talent?; who says that Nigerians cannot rise up to the occasion when required to do so?; who says that Nigeria cannot be the best soccer nation on this planet? Yours truely can go on and on, with these mind- bogling posers. The victory of the nation's under-17 soccer team, at the recently concluded world cup competition, bears credence to not only Nigeria's present near invicibility at the under-17 soccer level, but also bears credence to Nigeria's potentially near invicibility, at all levels of world soccer, if Nigeria's potentials, are properly tapped, harnessed and properly organised, by of course a very good soccer administration, backed up by the necessary technical input and of course with the necessary financial backing! This objective should not be just another pipe dream, but a very realistic, and realisable one; in other words, an achievable dream! Before continuing with this line of thought, let's celebrate Nigeria's heroes of the moment - the World golden Eaglets and their handlers, and of course the NFF, for a job well done!

The Golden Eaglets, were favourites for the world title, from the very beginning, notwithstanding their fourth-placed finishing at the African championship. This was mainly because of the nations's reputation, in under-17 soccer. The coach Emmanuel Amunike -led technical crew, did a good job of refurbishing, refining and fine-tuning the Golden Eaglets team that finished fourth at the African championship, to the level that made them worthy contenders for the world title. When they white-washed Argentina, in a friendly match, in the lead up to the World Cup, yours sincerely knew they were ready to defend their hard-won title of 2013.

The Golden Eaglets, right from the beginning of the World Cup competition, virtually rode over their opponents in convincing fashion, save for the 'blupper,' against Croatia, in their last group's match. The Mexicans, gave them a run for their money in the semi-finals, but the highly talented, smooth-playing and highly determined Golden Eaglets, had the last laugh, to set up an African finals, with African champions: Mali. It was a final billing, that at first sight, gave yours sincerely, cold shudders, considering the usually tough competitive atmosphere that is normally associated with teams from the same 'backyard,' battling each other, for a coveted prize -" derbies!" But in the final match, we saw a highly determined Golden Eaglets, that were not only determined to do battle with the Malians, but were determined to keep their world crown. Yours sincerely, like millions of Nigerians, that watched the final match live, was never in doubt right from the blast of the refree's whistle, about what the likely outcome would be, save for a case of an unexpected turn in the fortunes of the Golden Eaglets = bad luck! But thanks goodness, the better side won the match and consequently the cup! The Golden Eaglets, by that achievement, equalled the performance of Brazil, as only the second national under-17 side, to win back-to-back editions of the under-17 competition! One still expects the Golden Eaglets, to do better than Brazil, by winning the trophy a third time, consequetively!

The Golden Eaglets, were no doubt, a fairly well organised side, save for a few technical lapses, noticed. Without a shred of doubt, the team would get over those weaknesses, with the needed devotion, on the part of the players and of course with the necessary technical polish from the handlers, at the next level: the under-20 level!

The players all played well and together with their handlers should be congratulated for a job well done! Coach Emmanuel Amunike, with this achievement, joins the enviable ranks of coaches, who have brought world honour to Nigeria, at this level. The others being: Coach Sebastian Brodericks -Imasuen, in 1985, in China; Coach Fanny Amu, in 1993, in Japan; Late Coach Yemi Tella, of blessed memory, in 2007, in South Korea and Coach Manu Garba, in 2013, in Qatar.

Yours sincerely, says thank you and a very big congratulations to them, from the innermost bottom of my heart!!!!! They are Nigerian heroes and should be celebrated!!!!!!

Going forward, what is expected of this team and their handlers?

The natural manner of development, should be the promotion of the entire squad, together with their handelers to the under-20 squad.This time around, Coach Emmanuel Amunike, should be sent abroad for more technical and tactical polishing, by way of coaching refresher course and attachment to one or two clubsides .Experience has shown that winning the under-20 world cup competition, so far for Nigeria, remains a"bridge too far." This is illogical, considering the country's resume in the under-17 world cup competition. The most likely explanation for this anomaly, is the" professionalisation" of the game at this level and the inability of the country's technical crew, to be in line with the latest trends in the technical and tactical aspects of the game, at the under-20 level! A most recent example of this anomaly, is the surprising failure of the under-20 world cup team, at the last edition of the world cup competition, in New-Zealand. A team that paraded most of the players of the 2013, under-17 world cup winning team, as well as some other top under-20 players of the country.In other words, a team that paraded the best collection of the nation's under-20 players, in recent memory! But surprisingly failed at the world cup! Analysts, are unanimous in their opinion, that the reason for their failure, was that the team was badly technically and tactically organised! Clearly an indictment on the Coach Manu Garba -led technical crew.With all due respects to Coach Garba, and all due recognition for his numerous achievements as a coach, particularly with the under-17 team, he might have been a tactical genius at the under-17 world cup competition; but at the under-20 world cup competition, he was certainly a"tactical light weight!" The NFF, with benefit of hindsight, should have helped polish his coaching skills, after the under-17 world cup victory, in 2013, by sending him abroad for more coaching refinement!

The NFF, should avoid this mistake with Coach Amunike, no doubt a highly talented coach, but can make do with more technical and tactical polishing!

Going back to my earlier line of thought, at the beginning of this article; the erstwhile coach of the Super Eagles: Berti Voghts, said that given the depth of talent in Nigeria, with better soccer administration, Brazil, the then best in world's soccer, would be wary of Nigeria! Yours sincerely, was not only in agreement, but will go further, by positing that, given the depth of talent in Nigeria, with a more efficient soccer administration, Nigeria, can be the very best in soccer on this planet! Yes I mean it; the very best in soccer in the world! Hopefully, with the gradual improvement in the nation's soccer administration, Nigeria, will surely take her deserved place in world soccer. This dream is achievable!

In conclusion, in this connection, one will give a poser, in my native Igbo language:

"Owuru na Nigeria achighi na soccer, onye ga chi zi?" Interpretation: If Nigeria, doesn't rule the world in soccer, which other nation, would do?