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The rising profile of AS Roma’s Sadiq Umar

Although this is a period that Nigerian football has badly nose-dived, there seems to be no end to the discoveries of young players who are…

Although this is a period that Nigerian football has badly nose-dived, there seems to be no end to the discoveries of young players who are arriving on the stage with a lot of promises.
Beginning from 2013 when Nigeria again conquered the world at the FIFA U-17 Championship in the United Arab Emirates, the country has seen the arrival of youngsters that many football pundits have since tagged the future Super Eagles.
At the 2013 world cadet championship, Kelechi Iheanacho, a hitherto unknown player whose skills were honed in the dusty streets of Owerri, stole all the headlines and was voted the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
Consequently, he was snapped up by English giants, Manchester City and what he has so far achieved at the star studded club is not a surprise to those who that he is immensely talented.
UAE 2013 was not only about Iheanacho as the team was indeed filled to the brim with talents other talented youngsters like captain Musa Muhammed, Taiwo Awoniyi, Isaac Success, Saviour Godwin, Chidera Ezeh, Chibere Nwakali and Samuel Okon who have since moved to Europe where they are playing for different clubs.
Nigeria again returned to the centre stage in 2015 when the Golden Eaglets led by former international Emmanuel Amuneke successfully retained the FIFA U-17 trophy in Chile. The Eaglets won their fifth title in a grand style and unleashed another crop of top talents like Victor Osimhen, Kelechi Nwakali, Lazarus John, Michael Kingsly, Chukwudi Agor, Funsho Bamgboye and Orji Okonkwo. Some members of the squad are already in Europe and many more will soon join.
Apart from the players discovered from the outstanding performances of the Eaglets, Nigeria has picked up additional talents from other sources. While a few privileged ones like Alex Iwobi have been raised and bred in Europe, majority fought their ways to Europe and are available for selection now and in the future.
One of such anonymous boys who has come as a pleasant surprise to most Nigerians is no doubt Sadiq Umar who is now one of the most sought after players in Europe, especially the Italian Serie A.
Sadiq is actually a product of the prestigious Football College Abuja funded in 2012 by Italian-Nigerian Gabriele Volpi as Orlean Invest Limited’s corporate social responsibility aimed at identifying and developing football talents in the country.
Born on February 2, 1997, Sadiq popularly called Jololo by friends hails from Jegga Local Government Area of Kaduna State. He was born and bred in Kaduna town and his late father was also a football player. He played as a striker for DIC Bees, now Ranchers Bees of Kaduna.
One of the indigenous coaches of Abuja Football College, Ahmed Lawal discovered Sadiq and recruited him for the college. He spent only two years in the football college before he was moved to Italy to join La Spezia, the college’s sister club that plays in the Italian Serie B.
While playing for La Spezia, Italian giants, AS Roma showed interest in him. Subsequently, he was loaned to them for a year. He played for their U-18 Youth champion’s league where he became the highest goal scorer with six goals in four matches.
His outstanding performances earned him a chance to play for the senior team of Roma in Serie A. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands, scoring two goals in three appearances. Subsequently, he was offered a four year contract which he has just signed.
Interestingly, even as he is yet to savour the big career break through to the fullest, more opportunities are knocking at the door of the youngster as German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen has joined the chase to take him on loan for the coming season.
Another Italian Serie A club, Bologna are also said to be interested in the 19-year-old striker who is presently in the USA with the Dream Team VI preparing for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The rising profile of Sadiq is a thing of joy to the Abuja Football College. The Media Officer of the College, Chimaijem Eke told SHOT! that the 6ft 6 inches target striker is one of the best players so far discovered by the college.
“He is one of the best players that Football College Abuja has produced. His success is a clear indication that Football College is seriously discovering and developing talents in Nigeria and as an academy, we are very excited and proud of his success. He is currently in Nigerian U-23 camp in U.S. preparing for Olympic Games”.
Apart from the AS Roma youngster, Football College within four years has produced a number of top talents for the junior national teams of Nigeria. In 2013, the college contributed Goalkeeper Dele Alampasu and Alfa Abdullahi to the victorious Golden Eaglets in the United Arab Emirates.
In 2015, the college again supplied Orji Okonkwo, Kingsley Michael and Benjamin Amos to the world conquering Golden Eaglets in Chile.
Presently, products of the college are in both U-23 (Sadiq Umar, Dream Team VI) and U-20 (Orji Okonkwo, Kingsley Micheal, Benjamin Amos).
Thus, the story of Sadiq Umar and many other youngsters has continued to sustain hope in the minds of Nigerians who fervently believe that it is not all gloom for the country’s football.
For such optimists, in the near future, the young players’ individual abilities would be harnessed and better utilised for Nigerian football to rise again.

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