Even with the absence of Golden Eaglets from the defence of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, the game’s governing body and Local Organising Committee (LOC) of India 2017 yesterday invited Nwankwo Kanu to attend the Official Draw ceremony scheduled for tomorrow, July 7, 2017.
Nigeria is the back-to-back champion of the 2013 and 2015 editions held in UAE and Chile respectively.
Kanu won the 1993 edition in Japan with the Golden Eaglets to set off a career that has made him a legend of the game today. Three years later, Kanu led Nigeria’s Dream Team to the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games to claim the men’s football gold for Africa for the first time.
He played for the Super Eagles at the 1998, 2002 and 2010 editions of the FIFA World Cups before bowing out of the round leather game.
Speaking on his invitation to the Under-17 World Cup Draw in India, Kanu admitted that Nigeria’s victory at the cadet World Cup really spurred his career to the lofty heights he attained before calling it quits.
“The FIFA U-17 World Cup 1993 really spurred my career – within years of winning the title, I won the Olympic gold and from there, as I would like to believe, there wasn’t any looking back,” stressed Kanu to FIFA.com yesterday.
The former Inter Milan and Arsenal great stressed that the competition provides young players the opportunity to express themselves and develop.
“This tournament provides youngsters the necessary stage for development and I believe this year’s edition (India 2017) will provide us all with exceptional talent – much like the previous tournaments,” concludes the two-time winner of African Footballer of the Year award.
Africa is to be represented in India by the quartet of Mali, Ghana, Guinea and Niger Republic.
Mali was the runners-up at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015. The junior Eagles retained the CAF Under-17 Africa Cup in Gabon to be at the top of African representatives in India in October when hostilities begin.
Interestingly, another past star of the competition, Esteban Cambiasso who played for Argentina at the 1995 edition was also invited to join Kanu at the Draw in New Delhi.
Cambiasso who won the FIFA U-20 World Cup 1997 and was part of Argentina’s team at the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be joined by Indian local legends Sunil Chhetri and PV Sindhu, who will take part as draw assistants tomorrow.
Chhetri is India’s national football team captain and all-time top goalscorer. Twenty-one-year-old badminton player PV Sindhu is one of India’s finest athletes at the moment and made waves after winning the Olympic silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, becoming the youngest Indian to make a podium finish in an individual event at the Olympics.
A total of 52 games will be played to decide the winner of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017.