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FIFA World Cup

New Okocha, new Yekini and the others: what happened to Yemi Tella's boys?

Nigeria's success at the FIFA U-17 World Cup is well documented. The Golden Eaglets are the most successful team at Under 17 level, they have won the World Cup five times. It is however a paradox that this success has not directly translated to success at the senior national team level. Much more surprising is that, Nigeria has not translated the success at U-17 level to the U-20, as the Flying Eagles have never won the U-20 World Cup.

The Golden Eaglets are the most successful team at U-17 World Cups.

Lots of reasons have been muted for the seemingly lack of progress. From the issue of age cheat to that of poor career decisions. Nevertheless, Nigerians always enjoy watching the U-17 team play as they are more sure of success and at least excitement. They start rechristening the players, likening them to their more established compatriots and heroes. Such was the Golden Eaglets set of 2007, coached by Late Yemi Tella. They not only won the World Cup, they played exciting football and gave lots of promise. There was the new Okocha, new Yekini, new Iroha, new Keshi etc. What happened to them afterwards?

Golden Boot winner Chrisantus Macaulay was rechristened the new Yekini.

Expectations were high going into the World Cup in Korea. They had breezed through the qualifiers and won the U-17 AFCON in Togo in impressive fashion. Tella, an unknown coach was silencing his critics. After successes in 1985 and 1993, Nigerians yearned for another team that will rule the world, Tella and his boys duly delivered.

The team's number 9, Chrisantus Macaulay banged in goals, he won the Golden Boot at both the Africa and World tournaments. He drew comparisons to Rashidi Yekini due to his gangling frame and ruthless finishing. He got a move to German club Hamburg after the tournament, he could not cut it there and has become a nomad since then. He has played for 13 different clubs around the world and presently plays in Saudi Arabia. The new Yekini does not have one Super Eagles appearance.

Ibrahim was seen as Okocha's heir.

Rabiu Ibrahim was tagged as the new Okocha. His close control, dribbles, passes and movement was reminiscent of Okocha. He has also had a nomadic career. He presently plays in Slovenia for Slavan Bratislava. He has made five appearances for the Super Eagles but has been largely disappointing. The same can be said of the likes of Matthew Edile (the new Iroha), Ganiyu Oseni (little Bull) and the others.

Lukman is the only one to play at the FIFA World Cup among his peers.

None of the boys had a successful Super Eagles career. The best they got in the Super Eagles was team captain - Haruna Lukman. He made 8 appearances, scored one goal and he played at the FIFA World Cup in 2010. That was as good as it got. In contrast, Victor Moses, who played for England at that U-17 World Cup has had a better career at both national team and club level than the Golden Eaglets. Moses and England did not go far at the World Cup but he later changed nationality to Nigeria and had a very successful career with the Super Eagles before retiring in 2018.

Victor Moses represented England at that U-17 World Cup.

Age cheating has been a major issue for African countries especially at the age grade tournaments. Most of the 2007 U-17 boys were accused of being age cheats. Looking at their career trajectories before and after the tournament, it is difficult to dispute. Chrisantus was already a professional with FC Abuja before the World Cup. Rabiu was also already playing in the league with Gateway FC. It is difficult to accept that players that already played for some years in the league in Nigeria are still under the age of 17.

After the tournament, some others that did not move abroad did not have a viable local league to fall back on. Some moved to obscure leagues all around the world for money and that was the end. It became very difficult for the national team handlers to monitor them. The 2007 set are probably the most disappointing of the Golden Eaglets that have won the World Cup. The 2001 set did not make it out of the group stage at the World Cup but a good number of the players became successful, the likes of Mikel Obi and Chinedu Obasi.

A lesson for Nigeria, we should concentrate more on discovering young talented players at U-17 than being desperate to win it. Our U-17 accolades are of little use if we can not boast of success at the senior FIFA World Cup.

Content created and supplied by: TomiwaOjo (via Opera News )

Golden Eaglets Nigerians World Cup Yekini Yemi Tella


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