Nigeria: The Making of a Catastrophic Flying Eagles

flying-eagles-of-nigeriaIn the history of teams that have represented Nigeria at the FIFA U20 World Cup, three teams have elicited sounds of derision from the average football fan: the 1995 ‘wobbling and fumbling’ side coached by Fanny Amun, the Tunde Disu-led side that fell to Mali in 1999 when Nigeria hosted the FIFA U20 World Cup, and this 2019 set that just posted another better-be-forgotten performance in Poland.

The road to perdition for the Poland U20 Eagles had several pot-holes, any of which could have broken the axle of the team. The most fundamental, and most glaring of them, was…

The selection of a coach with no youth pedigree: Paul Aigbogun, the man charged with the responsibility of putting the team together has two claims to fame: he holds a UEFA coaching license, and has ‘coached in England, Wales and the United States’. However, there are no clear details about these coaching appointments, and he had no previous record of nurturing young talent. Still, many were excited about his appointment, given the constant reminder that he had coached abroad. Then, the WAFU U20 and the U20 Nations Cup tournaments happened, and questions about his ability surfaced. But some are of the opinion that his U20 team was undone majorly because of the…

Multiple level camping that saw the coach parade several players and different teams at every level of preparations; from the first qualifying game against Guinea Bissau to the last game the 2019 Flying Eagles played – the loss against Senegal in the Round of 16, the revolving door was so fast that many players were literally in and out before they could properly lace their boots. This was also the case with the 1999 team; so many players were given trials, and so many played both competitive and friendly games that by the time the tournament proper came, it was difficult to know who the players are. While it is not given that a team with a known nucleus will be successful, it helps when fans can identify the stars of a side before a tournament; it usually is a sign of continuity. The revolving doors may be the reason why there seemed to be…

Either the absence of coaching, or a seeming lack of it: The fact that too many players came and went probably meant a lack of time to blend them. The Nigerian side (probably) had talented players: but there was no team, the players looked ill at ease and it showed in their game. All these made it look like (true of false) the team had not been properly coached. The Flying Eagles scored three goals over two legs against Guinea-Bissau, five in one leg against Mauritania, and scored four against Qatar…all ‘minnows’. In the other games, they averaged less than a goal per game. But then again, the lack of goals may be attributed to…

A lack of a creative midfielder and wingers. The hallmark of any Nigerian side, whether male or female, club side or national team, is the presence of a creative midfielder or winger(s). No matter how badly a Nigerian team performs, a player in one of these positions stand out, and is identified as one for the future. That is not the case with this team. A couple of players shone a bit brighter than others, but that was because what the team had on offer was so generally bad, that the ones that were slightly better, looked like gems.

There are coaches in Nigeria who work with young players. It’s time for the Nigeria Football Federation to identify these coaches, and employ them in the scouting of young talent.  

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6 thoughts on “Nigeria: The Making of a Catastrophic Flying Eagles

  1. Aptly put albeit a bit flattering in a team that had nothing to offer. For me as a football writer, there was never going to be anything good from this team right from when Paul Aigbogun was saddled with the task. I was not one to fall for all the ambiguity of his CV which was to me overemphasized. You nailed it for me because i also know that there are coaches meant for underaged players either by training or via experience. I saw the Warri Wolves connection and was biased from day one. Of course I was vindicated. You sheathed your sword as you gave some kudos to a few with talents in this team. I for one saw nothing near good and the root cause was well analysed. Above all, they were a disaster in waiting and they confirmed it.
    N.B: just like Samson Siasia. I am one who have Always drummed it out of his ability only on this stage. Needless to say how he performs when he gets ambitious. Same for the short lived gaffing of Fanny Amun. He could be a genius with the little lads but once he fights to join the big boys, he falters big time.
    Meanwhile,have you heard of the corruption allegations bedevilling the team? That will be for another day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Aptly said sir. The team looked all sorts. They lacked the basic idea of footballing, I continuously asked if we had a coach. Another question that comes to mind is how this team was assembled. Are they the best we could pick out of the teeming talents scattered all over the country and outside?
    Efforts should be made to nurture, monitor and graduate our U. 17 team into U. 20. There should be frameworks for this transition that will also develop other talents.

    Liked by 1 person

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