By Pat Muo
Many were not called. And few were also not chosen! of the 22 players that won the African Youth Championships in Senegal, 13 survived the assessment. Those who survived were truly the best.
The rest of the boys are addendum from foreign clubs. They are now working hard to win the U-20 World Cup for Nigeria under the name Flying Eagles of Nigeria.
Led by Coach Manu Garba, the boys are vying with Brazil, Hungary and Korea DPR at the group stage before contesting for the big prize.
Their resumes are presented thus:
Goalkeeper, MFM FC, Nigeria
Enaholo showed class as first-choice goalkeeper at the CAF African Youth Championships in Senegal with superlative saves that won the tournament for Nigeria. The boy from Mountain of Fire and Miracles Football Club, is not afraid of the towering presence of first choice goalkeeper, Dele Alampasu in the Nigerian squad in New Zealand. He is already tipped as Super Eagles material.
Goal Keeper, Football College, Nigeria:
Alampasu used to be Flying Eagles’ first choice goalkeeper. But a dint of adventure which saw him scavenge Europe for trials made him miss the qualifying series of the African Youth Championships in Senegal. That presented Enaholo with an opportunity to emerge as first choice. Dele is lucky to be selected for New Zealand and will now work hard to reclaim his first choice position.
Goalkeeper, Giwa Football Club, Nigeria
The most experienced of the three goalkeepers. However, his experience went under test in Senegal when Joshua Enaholo was given a one-match suspension at the African Youth Championships but he disappointed the handlers of the team.
The goaltender from Giwa Football, Jos is however confident that Nigeria is due for victory in New Zealand. “Mark my words, the world will be surprised at the unbelievable turn-around in Nigerian Football.”
“We shall bring the FIFA Under-20 World Cup back to Nigeria next month by the special grace of God.”
Defender, Hart Football Club, Nigeria
Mohammed has pace and skills. He overlaps at the slightest opportunity and has a knack for joining the attack.
Skipper of the team, Mohammed believes that the Flying Eagles has all the qualities of a world champion and will certainly win the trophy in New Zealand. Musa may be right. His determination has strongly fired up the Flying Eagles when the going gets tough.
“I always encourage my mates to win matches when the going becomes tough. We have quality players. So, when their mood is down, I prop it up.”
Defender, Genk Football Club, Belgium
Wilfred Ndidi will be making his second appearance in the FIFA U-20 Championships. A very versatile player, he is expected to function in the defence with skipper Mohammed, Prince Izu Omega and Abdullahi Mustapha.
Ndidi recently signed a two year contract with Genk and convincingly exhibited class in Flying Eagles 5-2 win our Hoffeinhein in the build-up to this tournament.
Defender, Dabo Babes Academy, Nigeria
Zaharadeen shot into limelight in Senegal during the CAF U-20 Championships. His contributions in the Flying Eagles’ victory in the Super Six in Abuja was not enough to convince coach Manu Garba and he decided to take him to Senegal for the AYC. That was what Zaharadeen needed to blossom. And he did in grand style.
Defender, Apapa Golden Stars, Nigeria
Omego has four matches to his credit in the AYC in Senegal. Very dependable at the defence line, he has visibly worked his way into the team and has vowed to give his best in New Zealand.
Defender, Spotlight Football Club, Nigeria
Mustapha’s greatest asset is winning the ball from the opponent. A multi-talented defender, he has the additional skill of joining the attack whenever necessary.
In Senegal, Mustapha played in all five matches without picking a caution.
Midfielder, El-Kanemi Warriors, Nigeria
Arguably one of Nigeria’s future stars on parade in New Zealand. Skillful and mobile, Matthew is obviously a member of the engine room of the team.
Because of mobility, he scored Flying Eagles’ two goals in Senegal and was adjudged Man of the Match in one game.
Midfielder, Water Football Club, Nigeria
Another member of the Flying Eagles’ engine room, Ifeanyi is a permanent of the team and played an important role in the march towards victory in Senegal.
Forward, Manchester City, England
Kelechi is a confidence-builder for every team. The 18 year old in the Manchester City Youth team will always institute speed and a sense of duty into any team he plays for.
Little wonder that Manchester City management refused to release him to join his mates in the Flying Eagles for the build-up programme in Germany. He met the team in Germany for the competition proper.
Midfielder, Nigeria Young Academy, Nigeria
Unknown before the AYC in Senegal, Akinjide was one of the exceptional players in that CAF U-20 Championship, playing in all games involving the Flying Eagles.
A good dribbler with precise passes, he has the unique ability to stop rampaging attackers.
Midfielder, Esperance, Tunisia
A right-sided winger, Bulbwa is a marvel in attack. A lone strike by this Esperance Football Club of Tunisia player against home side, Senegal was all the encouragement that the Flying Eagles needed to open a barrage of goals that subdued the hosts and brought the trophy to Nigeria.
Bulbwa is wonderful during matches. His showing at the AYC in Senegal has since elevated him to the National U-23 Olympic team.
Midfielder, El-Kadme Academy, Nigeria
Clearly the most improved player among the pack. Although he did not participate in the AYC in Senegal, Saviour was part of the Golden Eaglets that won the last edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). His current form has already taken him into the Nigerian Olympic team guided by Samson Siasia.
Midfielder, Tottenham, England
Time is ripe for Yahaya to explode. Experience is on his side. That is due to early exposure. He has just returned to Tottenham from a loan deal to another English Club, Celta Vigo.
The young man is expected to make a solid statement in New Zealand. A knee ligament kept him away from Senegal. Now, it has healed.
Midfielder, Enyimba International, Nigeria
Sokari did extremely well in camp and became bad news for Abdullahi Alfa. His clever play impressed coach Manu Garba and he grabbed the chance to play in New Zealand.
Defender, Manchester City, England
Nwakali missed the AYC party due to injury. Thank God, he is back. An influential member of the last FIFA U-17 winning Gloden Eaglets in UAE, Nwakali’s return inspired a huge celebration in the Flying Eagles.
“What I’ve seen here is a big challenge. Every body is working hard and playing well. I have no choice myself than to work harder.”
Forward, Imperial Academy, Nigeria
Awoniyi will attract the biggest attention in New Zealand. He is the biggest prospect in the Nigerian team.
Awoniyi’s greatest asset is goal scoring. He is one of the reasons why Nigeria will win the FIFA U-20 trophy in New Zealand.
Forward, FC Porto, Portugal
Chiderah exudes joy. A bundle of skills, he is one of the live wire of Rangers International Football Club, Enugu before he moved to FC Porto in Portugal. Ezeh is an integral part of the Flying Eagles and will share duties with Iheanacho and Isaac Success upfront.
Forward, FC Granada, Spain
Like Iheanacho, Isaac Success joined the Flying Eagles in New Zealand. His story has since been told. Granada are swimming inside relegation water. To avoid the drop, they insisted that Success would not join the Flying Eagles in Germany for the build-up to the FIFA U-20 but would be made available for the competition proper in New Zealand. That has been done. Isaac Success is good, really good. Nigerians will celebrate his game in New Zealand.
Forward, Genk, Belgium
Another expected revelation in New Zealand. Moses Simon received his first call-up by coach Daniel Amokachie only last March and made his debut versus Uganda in Nigeria as a second half substitute. He is good on the ball and has deep foresight.