For the first time in the history of the tournament, the U17 Nigerian National football team have won the tournament for the FOURTH time!! Not only did they win, but they won convincingly beating their competitors [Mexico] by 3 goals. They also received the tournaments’ fair play award, the goal keeper – Alampasu, the golden glove award and the captain – Iheanacho, winning the golden ball award as well as the silver boot award.
Going into the final the squad had the complete backing from the country, and the continent as a whole. President Goodluck Johnson issued a statement through his special advisor on media and publicity: “The President assures the Eaglets and their handlers of the continued prayers, best wishes and fullest support of the Federal Government and all Nigerian as they strive to achieve the ultimate victory in the competition. He looks forward to receiving them at the Presidential Villa when they triumphantly return to Nigeria.”
Success was expected of the team as they had already met their opponents earlier in the tournament during the group stages where they thrashed them by 6 to1 goals. However credit must be given to the Mexicans as they put up a good show and didn’t make it too easy for the Nigerians. Other notable wins include beating Sweden and Iran which some of the players say were their most “thrilling” matches.
I personally feel that the reason the U17 side has been able to cap the trophy so many times is the fact that they train together. Unlike the senior team which has so many of their players unavailable for their training due to scheduling conflicts with their clubs. These clubs are mostly in Europe and travel between the two continents takes a while making training difficult. If national players commit themselves to be present for national training there is no reason they shouldn’t mirror their junior’s successes.
As the Yoruba proverb goes, “where you will sit when you are old shows where you stood in youth.”
Photo Credits: Goal.com