U-17 World Cup: If boys aren't men, Nigeria shall rule the world

I have followed the FIFA U-17 World Cup United Arab Emirates with much enthusiasm and calmness of the mind.

As an African, I always want African teams to excel; and as Nigerian, I definitely love Nigeria to “super-excel”. I like good football but whenever my country participates in any tournament, I wear my emotion like the cedar of Lebanon. Nigeria must win…Africa must win…Nigeria must win…Africa must win…Nigeria must win…Africa must win…

I don’t think I have any apology for the bread and butter somesthesia, a feeling that has outgrown itself. And of course it is in this parameter that I followed this tournament of youthful stars worldwide – stage by stage.

O gosh, I have since known that football is not mathematics; and that’s one of the reasons I like this game. For me it is the most glamorous game in the world. It is the game that radiates lights even though some disgruntled elements are constantly possessed with demons of hatred which will eventually engulf them. Amen.

Perhaps not many football analysts picked Group F as the group of death: Nigeria (now 4-time winner), Mexico (the defending champion), Sweden and Iraq. We now know better. It is the only group that has three teams in the second phase of the competition. FIFA.com puts it succinctly in its headline: “Group F Trio Reunited in Final Four”.

Beloved, the caption says it all. My dear country not only topped the group of death but went on to defeat Uruguay by 2-0 to reach another semi-final. The Trio of group F eventually won gold, silver and bronze. What a tournament and what a group.

As far as I am concerned, Nigeria – Mexico opening match in which the former won by six goals to one is the most surprising result. Draw or a hard fought 1-0 would have been more appropriate if football were mathematics.

Nigeria drew with Sweden 3-3 and beat Iraq 4-1. Sweden lost to Mexico by 2-1 while Mexico defeated Iraq by 3-1.

See, Sweden had tested and provoked the Golden Eaglets’ ability by scoring two goals ahead of these wonderful kids whom Gyan has prophesied could one day become stars. There’s no question about the Ghanaian star’s assertion.

Listen, any team capable of winning important matches; and or could come from behind to beat opponent is worthy of note. A team that can defeat Mexico which beat Brazil by that margin of goals has a future. Any team that has many goal scorers, and can successfully hold and control the game is worth giving a chance. A team that can beat Mexico twice (6-0 in the opening match and 3-0 in the final) is worth celebrating and is worth grooming to the next level.

Statistically the Golden Eaglets, scored an average of 4.5 goals per game in their first four matches. They lead with 26 goals and 5 against. These boys are superb and they would excel in football, but only if they are boys and not men.

The boys and their games are simply delighted; joyful to watch. Swedish coach, Roland Larsson, simply described the Golden Eaglets as unbelievable lads who play good attacking football.

Sunday Oliseh, member of FIFA’s Technical Study Group (TSG), has this to say: “What’s particularly stood out for me is the way that most sides really play as a team”. The former Super Eagles captain believes there’s positive development in the tournament mainly because “every player is motivated and disciplined which is unusual in this age category”.

To me, some of the boys look older than 17. Not only on the Nigerian side but virtually every country. I might be wrong. We should however not forget the Okochas, Kanus, Taribos who quit when they suppose to be at the height of their football career. And that’s my concern – the bottom line of this headline. My point is that if these boys aren’t men, then we should expect greater things from them. Their talent must not be wasted.

Talking about age, Vanguard reported that bitter losers Uruguay cried foul over their 2-0 quarter final loss to the Eaglets, saying the Eaglets are more like Eagles! Meaning they are above the U-17 age of the FIFA World Cup. Iran also shares the same sentiments, accusing the Nigerians of not being teenagers.

However, President of the Confederation of African Football, Alhaji Issa Hayatou, described the Golden Eaglets as super, saying “the boys are excellent”.

Time will definitely tell. But isn’t there a way FIFA can approach and finally solve the problem of over-age in such competition? I mean that the process in which no one will be able to doubt such issue as important as age in any youth competition.

That apart, in an era in which football has become politics and money and power, Nigeria may one day rule the world – of men football. Hen, go ahead and correct me if I am making sense.