I must confess that this tournament was the only moment in my life time when I watched soccer with a sense of relaxation, as a loved team played. Why? The boys' track record of solid victories made me watch each of the matches that they played, during the tournament, with a sense of confidence. As each game began, I was not worried about any possibility of those gallant boys losing; instead, reclined in my couch, as I watched each game, I confidently looked forward to not whether they would lose, but to how many goals they would score. Not even Enugu Rangers International (the darling of my youth) ever game me this sense of stability, pride and confidence--as I watched a Nigerian soccer team play--either at the national or club level.
Though the senior team, the Super Eagles, has its own splendid track record of accomplishments, including its winning of the much-coveted Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, it still can borrow a leaf from this crop of under-17 Nigerian soccer players--in terms of how to play football with a consistent sense of victory, cohesion, rhythm and camaraderie. Though I understand the fickle nature of soccer, I would like to see the Super Eagles inspire a degree of confidence in its fans similar to what the under-17 team pulled off during the latter’s crusade through the just-concluded 2013 FIFA under-17 world cup soccer championship games. Indeed, earlier in the week, I was not surprised to read that the coach of the Brazilian 2013 under-17 team openly commended these Nigerian lads and said that their trilling field performances amounted to "what football is all about."
Bravo to brilliant, effective-but-humble and gentle-spoken coach of these adorable Nigerian under-17 players, Manu Garba for selecting and grooming a highly skillful, dedicated, cohesive and happy soccer team. He has emerged as a national hero! No doubt, Garba has also earned a historic distinction as one of the most effective soccer coaches in Nigerian, African, and world history.
With all due humility, I call upon Nigeria’s National Football Federation (NFF) to adopt Manu Garba and his under-17 team as the leadership and group of players that should represent Nigeria in the next under-20 FIFA world cup soccer competition. All things being equal, I trust that this cohesive, highly skillful, victorious and entertaining team and its leadership are likely to do us proud again in the not-too-distant future. Once again, hearty congratulations to coach Manu Garba and his gallant under-17 world soccer champions!