Golden Eaglets’ heroics
MORE than winning the World Cup and being a worthy defending champion in the just concluded Under-17 biennial global football tournament, Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets have only reaffirmed at Chile 2015 who Nigerians are and can be at any time and in all areas of human endeavour: among the best.
This is also true of the exploits of another worthy individual ambassador, Wellinton Jighere, who beat all odds the other day to emerge the world champion in Scrabbles. So, a spirit of nation building should be reinforced by all Nigerians as all celebrate the Golden Eaglets who are now record five-time global football champions.
In the team’s tenacity and cohesiveness, leading to success, one great lesson that was sent out is the capacity of all Nigerian citizens to work together as a people, provided the will is there.
The Eaglets in Chile indeed became a metaphor for Nigeria. Throughout the competition, they continued to educate, open the eyes of their compatriots back home that in executing a national assignment, there is no room for divisions along any lines, be such religion or ethnicity, only oneness.
The lads were ever proud to wear the green and white shirts and send out the message to their compatriots that team spirit should be a national ethos. Of course, there was the resolve to collectively hold the fort on the field of play even when the wind was against their sail. That resilience of the Nigerian spirit is now one that must be harnessed in other spheres.
So much is sweet about that victory in Chile. It was won back-to-back. A new record of five final wins was set. Irrepressible Victor Osihmen is Golden Boot winner with a record 10 goals in a world cup tournament. Dazzling team captain Nwakali registered himself as an indispensable brilliant footballer to emerge Most Valuable Player. Coach Emmanuel Amuneke, so confounded and impressed technical officials of the football governing body, FIFA, with his formations that he was requested to share his new philosophy of play, which could hardly be decoded by the officials.
Amuneke has by his exploits emboldened the ever-growing tribe of advocates of indigenous talents to handle national teams as against official preference of foreigners. If well harnessed, the country’s coaches, with adequate exposure in training and remuneration can also perform.
The argument in some quarters has been that lack of motivation is the bane of indigenous coaches. Especially for the players, there must now be a comprehensive development agenda. The current crop of officials in the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) must be driven by passion for success and they have to come up with an acceptable developmental football programme from the age-grade to the senior level.
It is unacceptable, however, that Nigerian youths would excel in age-grade championships, good enough to be five-time world champions, but the senior team keeps moving down the FIFA rankings as a result of non-performance. What is the missing link? This must be identified and dealt with. The content in these youthful talents is amazing and this calls for more commitment to their success and excellence.
Perhaps, the instrument of attaining the goal will, as oft repeated, be found in true federalism which allows the federating units of Nigeria to pursue development in all spheres their own way within a larger context of the collective interest of the country.
The Eaglets played their way into fame, no doubt and the outing was an image booster for the country. This pride must be institutionalised for continuity. Besides its power of entertainment, sport, any sport, has always been an instrument of foreign policy, and in that sense the Eaglets have utilised that instrument to get immeasurable respect for their country. Sports is also big business and a veritable part of a nation’s economy. Sport stars among Nigerians in the Diaspora are known for instance, to constantly repatriate cash home to boost the local economy; in addition to the many employment opportunities, sports as business generates when properly organised.
One thing is certain: in spite of some inconsequential destructive elements, a great people Nigerians are and the country only requires a collective battle against selfishness, greed and divisive activities which retard her progress.
A Nigerian spirit built on its resilience and capacity for excellence will triumph over all odds and place the country where it rightfully belongs.