Five-time world champions, Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets flew out of Abuja Wednesday to Tanzania to take part in the 13th Africa U-17 Cup of Nations taking place in that country between Aptil 14th and 28th
Acting President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Seyi Akinwunmi charged the players and team officials to do the nation proud by lifting the trophy in Dar es Salaam
The Golden Eaglets secured their ticket to Tanzania after winning the WAFU B U-17 Tournament in Niger Republic in September last year, and will be aiming to be one of Africa’s four flag-bearers at the FIFA U-17 World Cup finals now scheduled for Brazil later this year.
Nigeria, Africa’s U-17 football powerhouse, edged fellow juggernauts Ghana on penalties in Niamey to secure their slot in Tanzania, and are in the same Group A as hosts Tanzania, Uganda and Angola.
However, the team has been depleted because of six first team players disqualified for failing the MRI age test last week.
Last year, the team’s Captain, Sulaiman Sani Abacha was dropped after he was disqualified at the zonal qualifiers in Niamey. Eaglets and the other teams participating in the tournament are to face another round of age tests to be conducted by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) today in Dar es Salam.
Tanzania made their way into the draw automatically as hosts, while Uganda won the Central East zonal finals held in Tanzania in August last year, and Angola triumphed at the COSAFA U-17 Tournament in Mauritius a month earlier.
Nigeria is making her ninth appearance in this competition, having won it twice previously (Seychelles 2001 and Togo 2007), while Tanzania is making a second appearance. Angola is making a fourth appearance, but it is a first-ever appearance at this level for Uganda.
Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal and Morocco make up Group B. Both Cameroon and Guinea are appearing for the seventh time at the U-17 AFCON, while Morocco and Senegal are both appearing for the second time.
The Eaglets will take on their Tanzanian counterparts in Sunday’s tournament opener at the National Stadium, Dar es Salaam.
An interesting variable in Sunday’s equation is the fact that Nigeria legend Emmanuel Amuneke, who is head coach of the Tanzania national team, Taifa Stars also oversees the other national teams and would be involved in their technical preparation.
Amuneke last month qualified the Taifa Stars for a first-ever AFCON finals after 39 years
Amuneke is highly familiar with the Nigeria bench, which has Manu Garba as head coach and Nduka Ugbade as one of the assistants.
When Manu Garba led the Golden Eaglets to win the FIFA U-17 World Cup for the fourth time in the United Arab Emirates in 2013, Amuneke and Ugbade were his assistants.
Two years later, in Chile, Amuneke was the head coach as Nigeria won a fifth title at that level.
After Sunday’s encounter, the Eaglets will tackle Angola on Wednesday, 17th April and confront Uganda on Saturday, 20th April.
Meanwhile, Golden Eaglets’ forward, Divine Nwachukwu has guaranteed Nigerians the team will return with the trophy.
Speaking after the Eaglets received former World Cup winner, Kelechi Nwakali, the NFF Zenith U-15 Football Championship top scorer told AOIFootball.com that the boys were ready to defend the colours of the country.
“It’s not easy to be here representing the country; we are privileged to be among the thousands that began this process.
“It’s not by our power but by the might of God and we want to promise that we are going to Tanzania not to play but to win,” Divine said.
The AYG top scorer also promised that the players will play to instructions and ensure they play as a team to achieve success for the nation.
“We are going to make our families and the country proud in Tanzania, we will play as a team and also ensure we bring back the trophy,” he concluded.
THE 21-MAN SQUAD
Sunday Stephen, Shedrack Tanko, Ogaga Oduko, Samson Okikiola Tijani, Clement Chigozie Ikenna, David Akulo Ishaya, Olakunle Junior Olusegun, Mayowa David Abayomi, Wisdom Ubani, Adrian Akande, Mubaraq Gata Adeshina, Shuaib Abdulrazaq, Akinkunmi Ayobami Amoo, Olatomi Alfred Olaniyan, Charles Etim, Suleman Shaibu, Peter Agba, Divine Nwachukwu, Ibraheem Olalekan Jabaar, Fawaz Abdullahi, Ayomide Oluwabusola