Monday, 19 January 2015

Siasia, Manu and the future of the Super Eagles

The failure of the Super Eagles to defend the AFCON crown at South Africa 1996 was somewhat assuaged by the victory at the Olympic Games Football event later that year. However (the team not regenerating appropriately from) missing two editions of the continental showpiece still took its toll on the Super Eagles' sojourn at the 1998 World Cup.
After winning the trophy 19 years later in 2013, the Super Eagles (seemingly jinxed) is again not at the (ongoing) AFCON to defend the trophy. The preceding story, we all know.
This self-inflicted misfortune will be a major setback and will no doubt disrupt the progression of the Eagles as it has robbed the team of an opportunity for a much-needed re-evaluation at a crucial transitory phase.

After the exploits and humiliations of the last four years, the Super Eagles is clearly due for a total overhaul and rebuild. The AFCON would have been the perfect platform to assess both old and some new players with the future in mind. Thereafter, it would have been clear which new players to integrate into the team and which players to dispose of, as we begin to build towards World Cup 2018.

However, looking forward, the disappointment of 2014 may yet turn out to be a blessing in disguise to the long term future of the team. While the team will lack competitive football almost all year after it failed to qualify for this year's AFCON, the team's supply line - the age-grade teams - will all be competitively involved continentally and most probably, globally. Herein lies the hatchery for the next Super Eagles.

Interestingly, the coaches handling the Under-23 and the Under-20 Eagles have a proven track record of unearthing and grooming young players. With Samson Siasia and Garba Manu grooming these youth teams, I strongly believe there is hope of producing quality players as feathers with which to build whatever will be left of the now skeletal framework called the "Super Eagles".

Coach Samson Siasia has the responsibility of building a new Under-23 team for the 2015 All African Games and the 2016 Olympic football event, while Garba Manu has the job of building on his 2013 success at Junior level by raising an Under-20 side that will qualify to represent the country at the 2015 Under-20 World Cup, via the 2015 CAF African Youth Championship.

My optimism for a strong Super Eagles team in the future is hinged on the fact that, knowing the two coaches, only the best from a large pool of youngsters will be picked for these youth teams.
Also, these teams will play a good number of competitive and warm-up matches and thereby gain experience together. The Under-20 will play in the AYC as well as the World Cup, if they qualify, while the Under-23 will have the All African Games football event to prepare for the Olympics football event, aside friendly matches.

Another strong point is that some of the selected players (some of whom are already in the Super Eagles) will be eligible to play in more than one of the teams. The consequence of this being that those players who will eventually graduate to the senior team will have already developed some level of understanding and synergy which will be beneficial in the longer term.

With Elderson Echiejile, Kenneth Omeruo, Ogenyi Onazi, Joel Obi, John Mikel Obi, Lukman Haruna, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses forming the spine from the old stock, the budding talents of Dele Alampasu, Chidiebere Nwakali, Musa Yahaya, Kelechi Iheanacho, Success Isaac, as well as the up-and-coming Sergio Uyi, Gbenga Arokoyo, Hope Akpan, Michael Olaitan and Imoh Ezekiel, there is hope for a more vibrant Super Eagles - if the right man is given the mandate to rebuild the team.

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