|Nigeria's flying Eagles - 2015 African U-20 Champions|
Congratulations to Coach Garba Manu and his wards for winning the 2015 African Under-20 Championship in Senegal. By winning the country this trophy for the seventh time, Coach Manu has once more proven himself a youth coach worth his onions. It will be remembered that he assisted Late Yemi Tella to win the African and World Under-17 championships in 2007, before leading the Golden Eaglets to win the World Under-17 Championship after coming second during the African version in 2013.
The players too must be commended for an outstanding performance en route winning the trophy. Their relentlessness, commitment and zeal to excel has brought renewed hope of bright future to Nigeria’s football faithful. It is hoped that they will retainthese attributes as they move up the national team rungs, and not deviate into obscurity due to complacency, like many before them. They must, however, be encouraged and well-motivated.
As the team prepares for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand later in the year, it must be noted that despite reaching the finals twice – losing to Portugal in the finals of the 1989 edition after the historic “Damman miracle”quarter final victory over Russia (inspired by assistant coach of the current team, Nduka Ugbade), and more recently, to Argentina in the 2005 finals – this is the only age-grade competition that has so far eluded Nigeria.The Garba Manu-led African Under-20 Champions need not be told that only the Gold will be good enough.
Bred from the victorious World Under-17 team of 2013, the team interestingly,has all the makings of a world-beater; even more so, given the impressive work done so far by Coach Garba Manu and his crew, in progressively honing and utilizing the collective talents and attitudes of the players. The team has been able to entertain its supporters while also getting results, consistently playing “total football” like the coach promised right from its nascent days.
The expected inclusion of the likes of Chidiebere Nwakali, Musa Yahaya, Alex Iwobi, Moses Simon, Kelechi Iheanacho and Isaac Success will definitely strengthen a team already beaming with the talents of Musa Mohammed, Zarahudeen Bello, Akinjide Idowu and Taiwo Awoniyi amongst others.
Following these, there is reason for genuine belief that the much coveted FIFA Under-20 World Cup is finally within grasp. The entire team must however acknowledge that the competition from hereon will only get tougher and so it must brace up with renewed determination and vigour if it is to achieve improved performances and, ultimately, victory on the world stage.
The NFF must give the team all the required support and encouragement which should include moves to parley foreign clubs in a bid to monitor and facilitate the (prompt) release of those players based abroad.
New Zealand 2015 offers Garba Manu a chance to succeed where Tunde Disu, Samson Siasia, and indeed, several other Nigerian coaches have so far failed.It offers Kelechi Iheanacho, Musa Yahaya, Success Isaac and co., perhaps an opportunity of a lifetime to tread where the likes of Mutiu Adepoju, Christopher Ohehen, Oladimeji Lawal, Nduka Ugbade,John Mikel Obi, Taye Taiwo and Chinedu Obasi could not.