FC Viktoria 1889 Berlin wonderkid Bob Okezie has committed his international future to Nigeria ahead of his country of birth, Germany, and has made himself available for selection to the Golden Eaglets ahead of the 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup. Kunle Adewale asks if depending on players of Nigerian descents for U17 competitions is not retrogressive to the country’s football inspite of the numerous football academies that surround us and indeed the yearly Principals Cup
Each time the Nigeria Football Federation eggheads successfully lobby a player of Nigeria descent to play for his fatherland, something the NFF president, Amaju Pinnick described as VIP Scouting, the federation sees as a master stroke since the home league cannot even be compared to the Principals Cup of the ’70’s and ‘80’s and therefore cannot produce quality players for the senior national team.
What is however more disturbing is the new trend of having players of Nigerian decent to player for the Golden Eaglets, a team that has four U17 World Cups under its belt with only Brazil coming closest with three wins?
The NFF boss convinced Chelsea prodigy Adrian Akande to commit his international future to Nigeria over England and was named in the recently concluded Africa U17 Cup of Nations in Tanzania alongside two other ‘foreigners’-Joseph Olawabuola –Bournemouth of England and Lateef Omidiji jr-Go Ahead Eagles of Spain.
Now another ‘foreigner’-Okezie is in the book ahead of the FIFA U17 Competition slated for Brazil.
Born in Potsdam, Okezie started his football career at the age of six at Fortuna Babelsberg, where he spent six years before transferring to SV Babelsberg 03, then joined his current club in 2018.
According to the attacker’s dad Chief Nweke, Bob has visited Nigeria so often where he learnt the words “quacking”, “shoot heavily” and “control your ball”, etc.
In 2015, his club SV Babelsberg 03 won the Brandenburg State Junior League (state junior championship) and the Nigerian whizkid won the golden boot. He is currently the top striker at FC Viktoria 1889 Berlin U17 team and the fourth highest goalscorer in the Nordost regional league in Germany.
Asked if the 17-year-old Vikotoria Berlin star will like to play for Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets, the father, Chief Nweke, replied: “Of course, if Nigeria needs him, Bobby will play. I will like him to join Manu Garba Boys.”
Bob is currently the top striker in his third club Vikotoria Berlin 1889 U17 and the fourth highest goal scorer in Nord ost (North East) U17 regional league in Germany. He joined the club in the middle of last season from SV Babelsberg 03 before the end of transfer window. He wears the No 9 shirt for his club and has scored more than 14 goals in his career.
It is on record that Nigeria won the maiden edition of the U17 Tournament with mainly players from the school system and were finalist two years later with the same school system.
The concern of many observers is with countless academies that surround us and the revival of the Principals Cup by GTBank the football authority can still not get 23 home-grown players that will represent us in an U17 competition without depending on foreign players.
In a chat with THISDAY, former Nigerian international and captain of defunct Abiola Babes of Abeokuta, Tajudeen Disu expressed sadness that the federation now look outside the shores of the country for players for an U17 competition, while attributing it to lazy administrators running Nigeria’s football and warned that until the country returns to the basics things would continue to get worse.
“The situation is like this because most of our football administrators are lazy and will therefore always look out for the short cut. When we qualified Nigeria for the U21 World Cup for the first time in 1983 virtually all of us were secondary school student or just leaving school,” Disu noted. The former Abiola Babes Captain blamed the politicising of the country’s football as being responsible for the situation we are in.
“Until we stand putting the right people in the right position the situation will remain the same. The idea of winning at all cost must also be discountenance; the primary objective is to expose the boys at that age and not compulsorily winning. By bringing in foreign players from abroad to play U17 competitions you are indirectly killing the youth system in the country,” he expressed.
Disu also berated the federation for not wanting to have former players who are educated as administrators and coaches as they would prefer people they can toss around.
“Most of those running our football federation are also agents and they have boys to sell, that is why they would prefer coaches they can toss around to achieve their aim,” he noted.
Nigeria placed fourth in the recently concluded U17 AFCON in spite of parading three foreign-based players.