By Victor Okoye
Abuja – Amaju Pinnick, Pesident, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), has charged the U-17 national team, Golden Eaglets, to keep level heads and stay focused to conquer Ghana’s Black Starlets in Niamey.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Eaglets will take on the Black Starlets in the final of the CAF U-17 Cup of Nations WAFU B Tournament in Niamey on Saturday.
The winner of the tournament will qualify for the finals of the 2019 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Both West African giants of world cadet football clash at the Stade General Seyni Kountche, with the lone ticket to the Africa U-17 Cup of Nations in Tanzania 2019 to serve as the spur for an explosive encounter.
The atmosphere will be further charged by a 67-year rivalry between both nations, with crucial wins for either country over the decades.
But the Eaglets are encouraged that Ghana’s semi-final victims Cote d’Ivoire, suffered a 5-1 hiding when both teams met at the same venue last week.
Nigeria will be buoyed by the maturity that comes with a plurality of experience, having come from a shaky start to the tournament to reach the final.
They fell behind 0-2 to Burkina Faso in their opening match before drawing level, only to lose the tie by conceding late in the game.
Against the Ivorians, they fired from all cylinders from the beginning and led 5-0, and against Niger Republic on Wednesday, created a handful of chances and led 2-0 before conceding a late consolation to the hosts.
Pinnick, who is also 1st Vice-President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), is in no doubt that the Nigerian boys possess the quality to defeat the Black Starlets and also do the nation proud at the final tournament in Tanzania.
Pinnick said that the boys had shown resilience to get to the final of the tournament.
“First, I want to congratulate you on a job well done so far; you have done very well, including exhibiting the never-say die spirit that is peculiar to Nigerians.
“This was visible in the manner you bounced back after the loss to the Burkinabes to dismiss the Ivorians 5-1, and also beat the host nation in the semi finals.
“But I want you to know that the job is not done yet. You must stay focused and listen to instructions from your coaches,” Pinnick said in a statement by NFF’s Director of Communication, Ademola Olajire on Friday.
“I believe in their leadership because they are very knowledgeable and experienced and have discovered so many talented players that have excelled in recent years.”
He advised the young lads to avoid distractions from agents, who according to him, will deceive and hurry them into signing for clubs that will not aid their proper development.
“The youth tournaments are basically developmental, so you have to follow instructions from your coaches and don’t allow agents to deceive you and make you sign for clubs in obscure countries.
“Players like Nwankwo Kanu and Mikel John Obi, just to mention two, started properly and so, were properly developed to stay longer in the game.”
Pinnick promised to take the team for a training tour in either Qatar or Jordan ahead of the U-17 AFCON in Tanzania to help their development once they qualify.
Five players from the NFF U-15 squad discovered during the annual NFF/Zenith Bank Future Eagles Championship, are part of the current squad tutored by Manu Garba.
Responding on behalf of the team, Goalkeeper Joseph Oluwabusola, thanked the NFF for the support so far and promised that they will make Nigeria proud on Saturday by defeating the Black Starlets to qualify for the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations in Tanzania.