Former Nigeria international, Emmanuel Amuneke, has said that the early exit of Nigeria’s age-grade teams from FIFA tournaments in 2019 should send the Nigerian Football Federation back to the drawing-room.
The former Barcelona winger who led Nigeria to U-17 glory in Chile in 2015, rued the performances of the Golden Eaglets and the Flying Eagles at their respective World Cups and suggests a return to effective grooming system to turn the tide.
“We have the talents to qualify for major age-grade events and do well but, we seem to have deviated from that winning formula,” Amuneke said.
“Sound developmental programs will curb age cheat that has always impeded the seamless transition of players to the next grade.
“Nigeria failed to go far at the U-17 and U-20 World Cups so, it should be a cause for concern for our administrators.”
One particular player that enjoyed a seamless transition from the U-17 under the former Taifa stars coach is Lille hit-man, Victor Osimhen.
Others are Kelechi Iheanacho, Samuel Chukwueze and Wilfred Ndidi.
The 20-year-old was part of the Golden Eaglets side that won Nigeria her fifth U-17 title in Chile scoring 10 goals to win the Golden Boot award.
The 49-year-old who Osimhen recently credited for his meteoric rise to stardom thanked former NFF Chairman, Aminu Maigari, for giving him the freedom to nurture and select stars like Osimhen.
“I have to say a big thank you to Aminu Maigari who backed our programme in 2012 and allowed us choose players on merit and not based on where you come from or who is your ‘Godfather’.
“We should allow players from academies play the age-grade competitions. Whether they win or lose is not the thing. Look at Osimhen, Ndidi, and others. They are making us proud now.
“Tell me, how will a league player still be 17 years old and he features in the league regularly? We should do things properly.
“During our days, coaches like James Peters brought out the best in us with hard work. It is not only about winning but also shaping the individual to be responsible to himself, society and world at large.”