By Tunde Sulaiman
Perhaps unknown too many, events over the last couple of months are pointing to the possibility of the nation pulling off a coup of sorts at the 2020 World Cup finals taking place in Qatar.
Of course, whether it has been a deliberate policy or not the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) must take some credit for what is likely to happen in seven years time – all things being equal.
So what exactly am I talking about? I’m referring to the recent performances of our national teams at all the major continental completions they have taken part in.
Of course, it was the Super Eagles that got the ball rolling by triumphing at the African Cup of Nations in South Africa, but the way I see it they are not the core of my piece this week because by Qatar 2020 only a few (if any) should still be in the team!
No I’m referring to both the Golden Eaglets and Flying Eagles who have equally done fairly well at both the African U17 Championships in Morocco and African Youth Championships in Algeria. While the Eaglets lost on penalties to Cote d’Ivoire in the final, their next level colleagues returned with a bronze medal.
However, while it’s painful that they did not continue the trend of their senior colleagues, the fact they were even able to reach the medals rounds of their respective competitions is an indication that they are amongst the best teams on the continent, which is no small achievement.
But what is more intriguing is that at 17 (Golden Eaglets age) and 20 (Flying Eagles age) they can form the nucleus of the Super Eagles by the time of Qatar 2020 – by this time Eaglets stars should only be 24 while their Flying Eagles colleagues should be 27 (again all things being equal), which is the prime of a footballer’s career.
The way I see it, with proper planning a decent mixture of the two should enable us produce a strong national team by the time of the first World Cup taking place in the Middle East.
And this is where the Glass House has a big role to play. They will have to decide on the coach they intend to put our World Cup destiny in, be he local or a foreigner, and give him all the support he needs.
We have all seen what proper planning by the German Football Federation (DFB) had done to football in the country with their club sides whitewashing La Liga teams; while the national team is cruising to qualifying for Brazil 2014.
Like I’ve pointed out before the DFB decided after their poor showing at France’98 and Euro 2000 to launch a 10-year plan to raise German football and we are all witnesses to the results of the programme.
Please get me clear I’m not saying that with proper planning we will be able to win Qatar 2020, no, but at least by that time we should know that we have a team that can perhaps go all the way at the next edition in 2024.
But, of course, the million-naira question is: will we have NFF that will be looking that far ahead not minding that they might not win much in between?
I must acknowledge here that the Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) played big parts in ensuring that age cheating was largely curbed by insisting on MRI testing.
Which means by the time of Qatar 2020 we should be shouting the names of some the players that featured in Algeria and Morocco 2013 when the Super Eagles file out in the semi-finals!
It looks far fetched, abi! But I believe with proper planning it is quite doable.