Saturday, November 9, 2013


Take a look at this list of names. Take your time to read through every name. Current poster boys of success they are; but these names shout of to you “NIGERIA”! 

1          Dele ALAMPASU    
2          Musa MUHAMMED          
3          Samuel OKON         
4          Akinjide IDOWU     
5          Denis NYA    
6          Aliyu ABUBAKAR    
7          Habib MAKANJUOLA         
8          Abdullahi ALFA       
9          Success ISAAC         
10       Kelechi IHEANACHO          
11       Musa YAHAYA         
12       Chigozi OBASI         
13       Saviour GODWIN   
14       Chidiebere NWAKALI        
15       Raymond JAPHET   
16       Abdulazeez ABUBAKAR    
17       Chidera EZEH          
18       Taiwo AWONIYI      
19       Zaharaddeen BELLO          
20       Baba SALIHU           
21       Francis UZOHO       

A lot has been written within the twelve hours that the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria dismantled the challenge of the erstwhile world Champions, Mexico. Indeed all through the competition, the cadet team of Nigeria left no pundit in doubt of their ability and preparedness to lift the cup. I am particularly  mindful of the latter  as it is worth exploring. 

All but two members of this team ply their trade in football academies in Nigeria. This is a clear departure from past “under-17“ teams  comprised of professionals who would have played football for three local football teams  before attaining the “golden” age of sixteen. Without fear of contradiction, there are Nigerians who know cadet players who had families before representing Nigeria in the cadet championship. This current team was assembled through contacts with youth academies in Nigeria. This  local content and availability availed the coaching crew of precious ample time to condition these kids for greatness. This team did not just happen; the coaching crew sought out players from academies all over the nation.

The coaching crew that handled this team is another pointer to the team’s success story. Coach Garba Manu was the assistant  to Abiodun Tella who led a victorious crusade in South Korea in 2007. He obviously was prepared for performance at the highest level of cadet football. He is assisted by Nduka Ugbade, cup-lifting captain in 1985 and Emmanuel Amuneke, beautifully talented Nigerian footballer and Barcelona veteran. This combination of experience and exposure was definitely a masterstroke in painting the success of this team. Scouting, team selection, strategy and tactical approach was  excellent all through this campaign. The coaching crew balanced motivation with discipline in a side filled with young players.

The Nigerian Football Federation takes a lot of flak for the failure of our national football teams to  live up to  our stature and potential. This is rightly so considering the enormous talent that abounds in Nigeria. There are more footballers in Nigeria than the population of some African countries.
However, the current Under-17 enjoyed a lengthy camping period within and outside Nigeria which exposed the players to performing at the highest possible level. The Football Federation also  ensured that the players were the youngest set of cadets that Nigeria ever presented. It is clear that the Federation has opened a new chapter of strategic planning which has improved the fortunes of our national teams.

When Ochoa threatened to unleash a Jalapeno shot at Dele Alampasu, Samuel Okon used all his strength; garnered from eating Afang and Ekpa-Nkukwo to prevent him. Iheanacho’s akpu-inspired shot demonstrated the difference between Ogogoro and Tequila to the Mexican goalkeeper. Muhammed Musa was resolute in demonstrating  to all in Dubai that the Savannah breeds strong boys who eat Mexican cactus for breakfast. Taiwo Awoniyi and Akinjide Idowu devoured all Mexican  attempts like hot tortillas. Isaac Success was excellent in  tutoring the Mexicans on how Nigeria succeeds when we prepare and do not depend on our natural talent and luck. Chigozie Obasi and Abdullahi Alfa mesmerised the Mexicans with the solidity of Tiv pounded yam and the fluidity of Ondo Okro Soup. This team showed the Mexicans why Onugbu should be eaten while hot, cold bitter leaf leaves and undesirable aftertaste. 

Not a push-over team, the  Mexicans were outwitted, outpaced, and outmanoeuvred by the lads from Nigeria. We must concede that they had more ball possession. We cannot complain about that! Arsenal Football Club is a reference point of the futility of possession as a trophy-lifting strategy! 

The achievement of the Golden Eaglets displayed the power of preparation, the precision of organisation, the excellence of planning and the possibility of a Nigeria, buoyed by the right values of hardwork and merit-driven selection. These young men proved to the world that we can excel when we unleash our collective talent at any task. These boys are Nigerians from all corners of this great nation. Irrespective of our ethnic or political leanings, we are the world champions.

Somewhere in the mind of every Nigerian, is the hope that we can copy and paste this formula on the template of our national polity.

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