he eagerly awaited screening of budding talents into the U-17 National Team, Golden Eaglets started on Tuesday at the NFF\FIFA Goal Project in Abuja with large turn-up of players from nooks and crannies of the country. Though 40 players were officially invited, over 3000 players actually turned up on Monday and Tuesday. Ikegwuonu Ebuka Stanley, who came from Imo State, said it was his desire to feature for the Golden Eaglets in order to start his football career on a good note.
“I want to play for my country and I know this will be a stepping stone if I can make it,” said Stanley, a player with Owerri-based Jahrule Academy. “I’m proud of the last two teams that won the World Cup and I’m also looking forward to an opportunity to represent my country at this level.”
Speaking on the same note, Tomiwa Durotoye, a Year 10 (SS1) student at Daywaterman College in Abeokuta, said he was passionate about playing for Nigeria.
“I was part of my school’s team that recently won the AISEN Competition in Lagos but playing at the national team level will be a dream come true for me,” said the light-skinned lad who is an academy player at Clique Sport.
Yet, Coach Manu Garba has warned that it would take more than enthusiasm on the part of the players to make the team, warning the players to be of good conduct during the screening exercise.
“We are going to give all of you equal opportunity but you have to be disciplined and do your best when you are given the opportunity to show what you can do on the pitch,” said the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup-winning coach. He continued: “Please, don’t let anyone fool you and collect any money from you; you will be judged by what you can do on the pitch as well as sound proof that you are within the age bracket.”
The ongoing screening exercise is part of the Golden Eaglets’ preparations towards qualification for the 2017 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations to be hosted by Madagascar. The Golden Eaglets would be away to Niger on the first weekend of August 5-7 with the reverse fixture in Nigeria a fortnight later.