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Page 50 Editorial Honouring the victorious Golden Eaglets We join the entire country in celebrating the victorious Golden Eaglets, Nigeria’s under 17 national football team,…

Page 50

Editorial

Honouring the victorious Golden Eaglets

We join the entire country in celebrating the victorious Golden Eaglets,

Nigeria’s under 17 national football team, who last week defeated Mali two goals to nil to clinch the 16th edition of the FIFA junior world cup in

Chile.

By the feat, the Eaglets retained the cup won by their predecessors in 2013 thereby making Nigeria the most successful nation in the tournament’s history with five titles and three runners up.

The Eaglets of Nigeria won the first edition in 1985 and went on to win subsequent editions in 1993, 2007, 2013 and 2015.

This is the first time the Nigerian squad was not adjudged to be cheating in the ages declared by the Eaglets as the competition organizers acknowledged that this is the most youthful team Nigeria has ever presented in the history of the competition.

Nigeria’s exploit in the U-17 category span beyond wining the trophy a record of five times, as four Nigerians have won the competition’s most valuable player’s award known as the golden ball. In 1987 it was Philip Osundu; Sani Emmanuel won it in 2009; Kelechi Iheanacho in 2013 and Kelechi Nwakali in 2015.

In the golden shoe award category, Nigeria’s Victor Osimten set the record of scoring the highest goals in the competition’s history with his 10 goal haul in the just concluded edition while Wilson Oruma and Macauley Chrisantus got the award in 1993 and 2007 for their 6 and 7 goals respectively.

Nigerian goalkeepers are not left out of the tournament glory as Dele Alampasu won the 2013 golden glove as the competition’s best goalkeeper while the country’s team won the fair play award for four times 1993, 2001, 2009, and 2013.

The triumphant Eaglets made Nigeria proud in the comity of nations and brought back memories of 1996 when the nation’s representatives won the gold medal in the football event of the Olympic Games.

The success of the Eaglets is an Africa one. As the continent became the most successful continental zone with 7 tournaments wins (5 for Nigeria, 2 for Ghana) and 6 times as runner up. Notably the 1993 final was contested by two African teams making it the first time when the final has been contested by two teams from the same confederation. The African teams repeated the 1993 final with Mali replacing Ghana (disqualified for age violation) in 2015 when Nigeria and Mali made it to the final and Nigeria got their fifth win.

The victory of the Eaglets has once again proved the prowess of Nigerian youths in the age global football competition and has left room for discussion for why the nation has not been doing well in the senior category.

Since Buhari assumes office as President on May 29, Nigerian athletes have distinguished themselves at the global arena in other sports apart from football having won the African Basketball Championship, which qualifies the country for the Olympics games. The Falconets also qualified for the Under 20 World Cup taking place next year. A Nigerian also won the World Scrabble Championship.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s call to the Eaglets was inspirational to their display in the final match against Mali. Having so inspired them, it is expected that the boys would be lusciously rewarded.

After winning the first edition of the tournament in 1985, President

Muhammadu Buhari, then military head of state directed state governors to reward the boys but recent revelations confirm that his directives were not carried out.

Under President Olusegun Obasanjo most athletes that made the country proud were rewarded with a Presidential handshake, a development widely

criticised even by the athletes. The reward situation improved under

President Goodluck Jonathan.

Nigerians are expecting a better reward package for the Eaglets for their dedication and doggedness in being the first Nigerian team to retain the cup back to back. The boys also deserve commendation for their decision to stay and play for Nigeria knowing that many other Nigerians now chose to play for other countries.

Government should use the opportunity of the victory to strengthen the school sports system as well as develop a sustainable strategy for age grade sport in the country to ensure that the nation attain its ultimate goal of one day wining the senior World Cup.

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