This is as good as it gets for Super Eaglets


It’s been another vintage performance by Nigeria’s Under 17 team but if past years are anything to go by it will barely make a ripple in the conveyor belt that leads to the Super Eagles.

That’s because so few make the transition upwards. Perhaps thats why Kanu seems to be tearing his hair out. He's thinking "if I can do, why can't they?"

I must confess I don’t watch a lot at this level. Experience has led me to believe that U17 is so early that in most cases it is too soon to tell how the player is going to develop - which can work both ways.

Nigeria won the inaugural U-17 tournament in 1985 (It was U-16 then) and were also triumphant in 1993 and 2007.

Others have done pretty well. Brazil have won the two-yearly tournament three times followed by Ghana and Mexico with two apiece.

The consistent thread in all these triumphs, however, is the relatively small number have gone on to flourish at senior level.

None of the Brazil squad who won the 2003 tournament, and should now be in the prime of their careers, is currently in the senior side as the South Americans prepare to host next year's World Cup.

Meanwhile, only three out of 21 members of Switzerland's victorious squad from 2009 have progressed to the national side - Granit Xhaka, Ricardo Rodriguez and Haris Seferovic.

There have been some wonderful Nigerian U-17 prospects like Sani Emmanuel who have just never kicked on. Then there’s Rabiu Ibrahim, feted by all at 17, and still trying to find his feet at senior level.

Yet on the flipside, one can recall that Neymar was a resounding flop in the World Cup at this level four years ago and look at him now.

The roll call of those who have flourished for Nigeria after winning the trophy is not a long one. Striker Jonathan Akpoborie was the most successful player to emerge from the 1985 team. In 1993 there was Kanu, Celestine Babayaro and Wilson Oruma who went on to really hit the heights. The 2007 squad continued the trend with only Lukman Haruna, and he’s been patchy at best, making headlines in the senior ranks.

In the early part of the summer there was so much debate about age cheating and what the purpose of the age restricted competitions really is. I’d say with the U-17s it doesn’t really matter and we should just enjoy each triumph for what it is.

 

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