The Golden Eaglets of Nigeria will not participate in the 2017 edition of the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations after they were beaten by Niger Republic on Saturday, August 20. The Golden Eaglets managed a lone goal win over the Young Menas in the first leg of this fixture but could not keep the advantage in the return leg in Niamey as they were beaten 3-1.
This will be the first time in the country’s history that Nigeria won’t be part of all Afcon tournaments at all levels. The Super Eagles won’t be in Gabon 2017. The Flying Eagles were denied qualification in the U-20 cadre by Sudan. Recall that a great percentage of the U17 team were recently sent packing after about 26 players from the squad failed the mandatory MRI screening ahead of the first leg. The tests conducted uses an exceptionally strong magnet and radio frequency waves to generate image of the body to understand the cause of several health issues and in football, especially to determine age (range) of players. The Golden Eaglets are the only team ever to win the junior world cup five times. They won the maiden edition in 1985 at China and later in 1993, 2007, 2013, and 2015. They also won the African Under-17 Championship in 2001 and 2007, and were runners-up in 1995. With the 3-1 loss to Niger, the team will not have the opportunity to reach the World Cup stage to defend their title which they won in 2015, since Africa’s representatives will be chosen at the U17 Nations Cup billed for Madagascar in April, 2017.
The Street Journal noted with dismay the progressive downturn in the fortunes of the Nigeria’s football since the advent of the current leadership of the nation’s soccer administration body, Nigeria Football Federation NFF under Amaju Pinnick.
The former Delta State FA boss when his sister’s husband was governor, Dr Uduaghan, has not had a day of respite ever since he came on board. His tenure has been bedeviled with one crisis or the other from inception as Chris Giwa whom the nation’s court of law initially awarded victory and validated his mandate as the authentic president of NFF had not hidden his disdain for the institution of the Pinnick’s NFF. The manner the Pinnick’s NFF has been running the nation’s football has been appalling. Many wrong decisions that significantly had adverse effects on the growth of football in Nigeria were taken by Pinnick and his co-travelers in the glass house.
The selection of a technical adviser for the Super Eagles was as embarrassing as the failure of the nation’s senior team to participate in two editions of AFCON consecutively. The country’s FIFA rating has been diving towards the south with Pinnick at the helm of affairs of Nigeria’s football in an unprecedented version.
The Dream Team V1 that won the bronze at the Rio Olympic under Samson Siasia went through hell to jet out of the country on a training tour in the US. The team led by the coach and skipper, Mikel Obi had to use personal funds to bail out he team during critical situations that were capable of inflicting the country with national embarrassment of an un-imaginable proportion.
The minister of sport, Dalung, who has also exposed the much talked about super cabinet composition of President Mohammadu Buhari due to his kindergarten leadership style had cried out that Pinnick and his ‘NFF cultists’ did not furnish his office with the information concerning the US trip of Siasai and his boys. He was in the US embarrassing himself and the country washing the nation’s dirty lining in the glare view of the international community. He called the team and its handlers unprintable names insinuating that the boys were in the US as guests of some friends of their coaches.
To travel to the venue of the global fiesta in Brazil was another global issue for Nigeria and her leaders who indulged in conspiracy of silence of sort. Both Pinnick and Dalung should not be allowed to bury our football. Football remains the only unifying factor for Nigerians as our politicians have succeeded dividing the country along tribal lines for selfish political profiteering.
I’m not unaware of the implications of the statue of FIFA in removing a member’s FA President. But this could be achieved democratically within the NFF itself while a more suitable replacement for Pinnick would be found. Dalung should be redeployed if his affinity to Buhari is that strong that he must remain in his cabinet. He has the prerogative to keep him. But it would do both Dalung and Buhari a lot of good if the former is removed from the ministry of Sports. His charisma for the ministry is in the deficit. His knowledge and temperament for the game of football and its politics in Nigeria and beyond are lacking as well.
The Naira is having the bashing of its life in the forex market with its attendant difficulties inflicted on Nigerians, while all good of life like both economic and social infrastructure are in short supply. But the game of football which had remained the greatest succour for Nigerians at a time like this is gradually being killed by some people who rose to unprecedented positions of authority in the country on the back of godfathers and now find it an uphill task to make a success of the opportunity undeservedly entrusted to them. Shio!