Monday, 29 October 2012

How high can these Eaglets fly?

The current Golden Eaglets team has been tipped for greatness going by an impressive goals harvest in their matches so far. As the team continues to navigate its way towards the African Junior Championship and hopefully World Cup, the downturn in fortunes of our “schoolboys” soon after great exploits at the junior international level begs the question: Are these boys are the real deal, or will they just be another flash in the pan like many others before them?

Of the entire silver-medal winning Golden Eaglets team at Trinidad & Tobago 2001, only Bassey Akpan is still visible. Richard Eromoigbe played regularly in the UEFA Champions league for a while, while Karimu Shuaibu and Joseph Eyimofe buzzed around in the local league before disappearing. The brighter spots of the team at that tournament Suleiman Mohammed (who was at Salzburg in Austria at a time) and Victor Brown just did not see the light of day.

The 2003 class lost out in the first round of the tournament on a coin toss, but the players fared far better subsequently: Ambrose Vanzekin, John Michael Obi (now John Mikel Obi), Chinedu Ogbuke (now Obasi), and Isaac Promise have gone on to enjoy some level of success internationally, though Ezekiel Bala, Solomon Okoronkwo, are currently neither here nor there.

Of the Korea 2007 winners, Goalkeeper Dele Ajiboye only just returned from a stint in Spain’s lower division, Usman Amoda, Kingsley Udoh and Sheriff Isah are still quite visible within the local league and on the fringes of some national teams. Top scorer at Korea, Macauley Chrisantus, however failed to live up to the high expectations and so has been very pedestrian in Europe alongside talented Rabiu Ibrahim and recently, King Osanga.
Captain Haruna Lukman seemed to still be the leading light career wise until his move to Ukrainian outfit, Dinamo Kiev’s bench. Joshua’s life-threatening condition has ended his career effectively, while Yakubu Alfa, Rafael Ademola, Ganiyu Oseni, Kabiru Akinsola are still gallivanting Europe’s obscure leagues.

Nigeria 2009 Silver winning Eaglets replicated the 2001 feat. Dami Paul’s diminutive stature seems to have worked against his competition heroics, while nothing has changed for Aigbe Oliha and Fortune Chukwudi in the local league.
Mohammed Aliyu, top-scorer Sani Emmanuel, Ramon Azeez, Edafe Egbedi and Stanley Okoro – despite their huge talents and prospects – have, unbelievably been subdued in Europe. Only Onazi Ogenyi and Kenneth Omeruo are flying the flag for this class of Eaglets.

In all, Nduka Ugbade, Jonathan Akpoborie, Victor Ikpeba, Wilson Oruma, Karibe Ojigwe, Kanu Nwankwo, Celestine Babayaro , Chinedu Obasi, John Obi remain some of the very few players who have gone on to have glittering international careers after graduating from the Under-17.
Meanwhile, only Chinedu Obasi and Haruna Lukman hold a FIFA record of having played at Under-17, Under-20 and at the World Cup. Obasi has also played in the Under-23 level at the Olympics.

What lies ahead for the Garba Manu and Nduka Ugbade’s famed “high-scoring” Goalden Eaglets class of 2012/2013?

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