Just like millions of football crazy Nigerian fans I was shocked by the disappointment of the Flying Eagles shock loss on away goals rule to the Young Falcons of Sudan. Like millions of football crazy Nigerian fans I asked myself, ‘isn’t this the same team that won the FIFA U17 World Cup just last November? Like millions of football crazy Nigerian fans I scratched my head and asked myself, ‘isn’t this the same team that beat the same Sudanese team barely a few weeks ago? Isn’t this team handled by the same Emmanuel Amunike who led the U17 team to win the U17 World cup in Chile last November? Na wa oh!’
However, those of us who have been involved in football for long will understand that upsets like these are the beauty of the game. That’s why it’s called ‘The Beautiful Game.’ It’s a game where anything can happen at any time. That’s one of the reasons why I love this game so much.
Nobody gave the Sudanese any chance whatsoever especially after they lost the first leg at home. Nobody ever thought they’d shake the Nigerian Flying Eagles. I can’t say about the players or the technical crew as that would be wrong of them, but I know that almost all Nigerian fans under rated the Sudanese.
This feeling seemed to be correct when Samuel Chukwueze opened scores with a brilliant solo effort. That boy is one lad with a very bright future. The things he does with the ball reminds me of Arjen Robben and Riyahd Mahrez put together. He can dribble he can shoot. And he has pace.
However, the Sudanese soon cancelled out that goal and like play like play, they fought back into the game to win 4-3 and tie the aggregate score at 5-5 but moved ahead on away goals rule having scored four away goals compared to the two we scored in Sudan.
Anyway, what has happened has happened. No need crying over spilt milk. We have to move on as a nation. Most importantly, the boys have to move on with their careers. I am aware that only a handful of the players in that team have secured foreign deals.The U20 African Nations Cup and the U20 World Cup would have been a great opportunity for them to put themselves on the shopping window.Now that is gone.
My candid advise to the boys is simple: “Keep working hard, the best is yet to come. Never lose belief in yourself. Never lose belief in your God. This life is full of ups and downs. I bet when you won the U17 World Cup you never in your wildest dreams imagined that you wouldn’t be able to qualify for the ANC or the World cup.
But some days are like that.
I’ll give you a personal experience. In 1993 I went to the U20 African Youth Championship. Nigeria did not have a great tournament as we could not even qualify from our group. For me, I had a nightmare tournament, watching only from the sidelines as we first lost 1-0 to Cameroun, beat the hosts Mauritius 2-0 and when we need a draw to qualify, we lost 1-0 to arch rivals Ghana.
I didn’t get to taste a single minute of action in the tournament and even though I was greatly disappointed, I did not let it get to me. I just went back home and worked harder. I told myself I was young and I had the future ahead of me so there was no need crying over spilt milk.
Fortunately I was within the age limit for the U17 team and coach Fanny Amun soon drafted me into the squad and I went on to have a great tournament and from there launched my career to get to the level I got.
If I had let the disappointment of the woeful tournament that was Mauritius ’93 affect me, I probably wouldn’t have become a name most football fans across the world can recognize. Your future is too bright for you to waste it thinking of the past. Be determined to become a name many football fans across the world will recognize in many years. Forget the pain of last Saturday. Go for the glory ahead.
Kanu Nwankwo (MON)