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This was the question a close friend and an enthusiastic football fan asked me few hours ago. He is an ardent follower of Golden Eaglets and has the full record of the team since 1985 when it made history in faraway China at the maiden cum experimental FIFA/Kodak U-16 World tournament.
I couldn’t present him with a positive answer which he wanted. Sincerely, I am not enthusiastic about Golden Eaglets sojourn or participation in Brazil 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup kicking off in few days time.
He asked why I am not “interested” in the Golden Eaglets anymore knowing that I am or was also a religious follower or believer in this team over the years.
I responded by saying that I will follow the tournament or championship as usual to see and know the next generation of football stars ready to spring up and possibly replace the ageing stars of today led by the duo of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
However, I will not be consumed as usual by development or events concerning our Golden Eaglets irrespective of how positive the incidents or stories will be. The best story of course will be Golden Eaglets winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup a record six times. This, honestly, will not interest me, I told my friend who was starring at me quizzically.
Yes, it will not interest me because among the stars churned out in such tournaments ours, yes, Golden Eaglets fizzle out barely 12 months after excelling in these tournaments. It hurts deeply to see their mates from other countries ruling the football world while they end up in obscured countries, locations and clubs across the globe.
This has become an injury that has refused to heal in my heart. It is a terrible pain that keeps recurring especially when I watch Golden Eaglets mates shine. We may have forgotten that Toni Kroos of Real Madrid and Germany was in the tournament that our own Chrisantus Macaulay shone like a trillion stars. But where is Macaulay today?
It is sad to see Kelechi Iheanacho struggle in his EPL club, Leicester City where he was “dumped” by his former club, Manchester City. Nacho as he was once fondly called was the star-player in 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup in the UAE. When we remember how Phillip Osondu ended up after dazzling the world in Canada ’87 FIFA U-17 World Cup, we can help but to nurse our pain and lick our wound of a faded star.
True, the Golden Eaglets have produced great players like Nduka Ugbade, Victor Igbinoba, Jonathan Akpoborie, Fatai Atere, Segun Fetuga, Phillip Osondu, Victor Ikpeba, Chinedu Anazonwu, Peter Ogaba, Taiwo Enegwa, Jide Oguntuase, Dimeji Lawal, Nwankwo Kanu, Celestine Babayaro, John Obi Mikel, Isaac Promise, Chinedu Obasi, Bala Ezekiel, James Obiorah, Henry Onwuzuruike, Godfrey Nwankpa, Lukman Haruna, Shehu Sani Emmanuel, Isaac Success, Kelechi Nwakali, Samuel Chukwueze and Victor Osimhen to mention a few. But in all the standard and quality are dropping in terms of the players measuring up and excelling in their careers after the FIFA U-17 World Cup. And only a handful of these players made it to the top.
Here or there lies my worry, pain and concern. This is why I am no longer keen about how Golden Eaglets fare in the FIFA U-17 World Cup. It should not just be about winning the World Cup….but about going ahead to shine in the colours of top European clubs and indeed the Super Eagles.
Sadly, just few of these Eaglets make it to the national team. And if or when they do, the last just few months and get off the radar. No one knows their whereabouts. The ones who even try to catch global attention fade away in no distant time just like Nacho is presently doing.
Here we are again! Another class of Golden Eaglets are in Brazil. Another journey has begun. Who knows where these Eaglets will end? I pray they excel in AS Monaco like Ikpeba, Arsenal like Kanu, FC Barcelona like Gbenga Okunnowo, Chelsea like Babayaro, Kaiserslautern like Karibe Ojigwe among others.