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|Player Dropped For Failing Age Test In Eaglets’ Final List by r231(m): 10:59pm On Oct 19, 2009|
The chief coach of the Golden Eaglets, John Obuh, is courting another controversy ahead of Nigeria’s U-17 World Cup campaign after including a player suspected to have failed age test in his final squad for the competition.
Deji Joel was one of the 15 players who were dropped from the Eaglets after the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan was conducted in August. But the player was surprisingly included in the final squad of 21 released by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) last Thursday, after the Eaglets’ training tour of Qatar.
The 15 players dropped from the squad of 36, according to a statement released on August 25 by the NFF, are: Kabiru Borgo, Abiodun Akande, Ariyo Olubukola, Habeeb Bello, Deji Joel, Yakubu Azeez, Ogungbe Ganiyu, Orji Alu, Justice Chinedu, and Chinedu Udegha. Others are: Amadi Moses, Solomon Enudi, Dubem Awaziem, Esse Joseph Junior, and Olaitan Gambari.
The player, Joel, was in the Golden Eaglets squad that crashed 3-0 to Benin Republic in Cotonou last year, a result that sent our Eaglets out of the African U-17 Championship qualifiers and led to the sack of Alphonsus Dike. Dike was the first coach to be given the task of producing the team for the Nigeria 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup but Henry Nwosu replaced him following the team’s humiliation in Cotonou.
Nwosu reigned for a few months before he was sacked and replaced by the current coach, Obuh, who has had to endure the controversies concerning the age of his players after the NFF ordered an MRI test to be conducted on the team.
The inclusion of Joel may have cast some doubts over the screening of over-aged players from the team as claimed by the NFF.
Meanwhile, the Eaglets are back in the country from Doha, Qatar, as they look forward to their opening game of the U-17 World Cup which comes up in Abuja on Saturday against Germany, the current European cadet champions.
Meanwhile, former Golden Eaglets captain wants greater emphasis to be paid to players’ development at age-grade level. Nduka Ugbade called on Nigerians not to place so much expectation on the side many eagerly expect to defend the title won by their predecessors in 2007.
Ugbade, who led the Golden Eaglets to victory at the tournament’s maiden edition back in 1985 in China, and who went on to make numerous appearances for the Super Eagles, feels developing prospective players for the senior national team should be accorded greater importance than winning the U-17 World Cup.
“Everyone loves to win, nobody loves to lose,” said Ugbade. “But at this level of football (U-17) winning should actually be the secondary focus while discovering new players for the future should be the major focus.
“If this present team does not win the World Cup, many Nigerians will condemn them forgetting that there could be one or more players in the team with the potentials of becoming superstars in the future. So we shouldn’t lay so much emphasis on winning as it is a developmental competition.”
The current Golden Eaglets have not had the best of preparations for the U-17 World Cup and with just a few days to Saturday’s opening match against Germany in Abuja, chances are that they will not be able to win a fourth world title come the end of the tournament on November 15.
There are also questions concerning the true ages of the Golden Eagl ets players but Ugbade hopes the problem, which he insists is not exclusive to teams from Africa, will soon become a thing of the past.
“The age issue does not look like something that will easily die away but it is not peculiar to Africa; it is a global problem,” he continued.
“But it could stop once countries realise that they are destroying, rather than developing their football by using over-age players.”
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