UNFULFILLED DREAMS: 9 Nigerian Wonderkids Who Faded After Bright Starts

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UNFULFILLED DREAMS: 9 Nigerian Wonderkids Who Faded After Bright Starts

UNFULFILLED DREAMS: 9 Nigerian Wonderkids Who Faded After Bright Starts
March 09
14:43 2016

Youth football in Nigeria has produced a conveyance belt of talents that helped the country reach dizzying heights in the sport. From winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup a record five times to winning the gold at the 1996 Olympics and the Africa Cup of Nations on three occasions, Nigeria have always been the envy of many African nations and beyond.

But with the highs come the lows as issues such as lack of discipline, greed and age cheating have derailed the careers of some of these football players.’s IZUCHUKWU OKOSI presents Nigerian former youth internationals who were expected to become some of the best in the world at the senior level after their exploits at junior level but had disappointing tales to tell…

After representing Nigeria at the FIFA U-16 Kodak World Championship in China where he helped the country win the title, Victor Igbinoba was in Nigeria’s U-20 squad to the 1987 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Chile but the competition was a disaster for Nigeria as they crashed out in the group stages.

Igbinoba scored in Nigeria’s 3-0 win against Costa Rica, the 3-1 win against Hungary and was the scorer of Nigeria’s second goal in the 2-0 win against West Germany in the final at the Workers’ Stadium in Beijing on August 11, 1985 to lift the U-16 trophy.

Igbinoba played in all Nigeria’s six games in China 31 years ago and was in action once at the U-20 World Youth Championship in Chiletwo years later.

Sadly he did not realise his huge potential as he was never involved in any other Nigerian football teams after that catastrophic outing.

Phillip Osondu was tipped to be the next big thing in Nigerian football following his performance at the 1987 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Canada.

Nigeria got to the final of the championship but were defeated by USSR who triumphed 4-2 via penalties with both teams having finished the game at regulation time 1-1.

Osondu dazzled the football world with his repertoire of skills and was duly handed the Golden Ball prize as the most outstanding player of Canada 87.

Belgium was fast turning out to be the haven for Nigerian footballers and after his U-16 exploits, Osondu was snapped up by Anderlecht of Belgium.

It was reportedly said that Osondu ‘refused’ to grow tall despite the many efforts of the Belgian side which raised dust over his real age.

The one-time El Kanemi striker turned the dietary regime of the club on its head after the foreign food he was being fed with did not help his growth the way the club anticipated.

Rather than growing taller like other players of ‘his age’ in the club’s rank, Osondu grew stockier and more round the waist.

The forward was released by Anderlecht in 1996 at the official age of 25 and ended up doing odd jobs in Belgium to survive.

Peter Anosike was a key member of the Golden Eaglets side that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Japan in 1993.

Schooled at the Metropolitan Secondary School, Onitsha, Anosike’s talent was spotted by Fanny Amun who was coach of the Nigerian team that camped at the Rojenny Sports Complex, Oba, Anambra State.

Anosike played in all of Nigeria’s FIFA U-17 World Cup triumph in Japan 93. The striker scored five goals at the U-17 World Cup joint second top scorer with teammate and second best player at the World Cup, Nwankwo Kanu, behind top scorer and captain of the team, Wilson Oruma.

At Japan 93, Anosike scored two goals against Canada in an 8-0 rout, one against Argentina which the Golden Eaglets won 4-0 and in the semi finals against Poland on September 1 which the Eaglets won 2-1.

It was Anosike who scored Nigeria’s winner in the final against Ghana on September 4 which Fanny Amun’s team won 2-1.

One of the memorable images of the U-17 World Cup 23 years ago was the goal celebration dance coach Fanny Amun did when Anosike scored in the final.

Anosike played in several clubs including AA Gent of Belgium but for all the promise he showed at Japan ’93, Anosike never quite hit it big at the senior national teams.

Nigeria were the losing finalists at the 1987 FIFA U-17 World Youth Cup in Canada.

In Nigeria’s ranks was a certain 13-year-old starry-eyed young striker by the name Peter Ogaba. Ogaba was officially the youngest player of the second edition of the championship.

Ogaba played in six games of the Golden Eaglets’ matches at the 1987 U-16 World Cup and was in action in four games two years later in Saudi Arabia at the FIFA U-20 World Youth Championship in Saudi Arabia in 1989 and were the losing finalists. The team coached by Tunde Disu were defeated 2-0 by Portugal that had in their team Louis Figo.

A product of the Government Secondary School, Makurdi, Ogaba’s ‘breakthrough’ came during the National Sports Festival in 1985.

Ogaba played in KSC Lokeren in Belgium. He went on loan from Lokeren after sustaining a hamstring injury to Finland, FC Oulu, where he won the league.

Ogaba’s last known club was MSV Duisburg who he played for in the 1993/1994 season when he was officially 19, 20. He has not been heard of as a player since.

Nigeria lifted the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Korea and also produced the top scorer of the tournament – Macaulay Chrisantus – who notched up seven goals.

The then FC Abuja striker was compared to several top Nigerian strikers like the late Rashidi Yekini, Ishaya Jatau etc for scoring wonderful goals at the tournament in Korea.

But since then Macaulay who also won the silver ball in Korea has failed to live up to expectations.

Naturally expected to graduate to the U-20s, U-23s and the Nigerian senior national team, that has not been the situation for Macaulay.

Now 25, Macaulay has not also been able to cut it big for top clubs in Europe, now playing for AEK Athens in Greece, who he joined on a free transfer from another mid-level club Sivasspor of Turkey.

Another member of that Golden Eaglests squad to the 2007 U-17 World Cup in Korea, Kabiru Akinsola was tipped to become of the best stories told in the history of the U-17 World Cup but virtually nobody hears about the stoutly built striker anymore.

He first showed his promise at the CAF U17 Championship in Togo where he scored the winning goal against the hosts prior to the World Cup in Korea.

After playing for mostly smaller Spanish clubs and Etiole de Sahel, Akinsola returned to the Nigerian Professional Football League and played two games for
Sunshine Stars of Akure in the 2014/2015 season when expectation was that his talent should have seen him strutting his stuff for clubs in mainstream Europe.

Akinsola has spent most of his young career being a journeyman across the lower division clubs of Europe. Now officially 25, he joined UD Merida in Spanish Segunda in January.

He has never caught the eye of Super Eagles selectors despite his huge potential at U-17 level.

The Golden Eaglets team to the 2007 U-17 World Cup in Korea also had the powerful Ganiyu Oseni.

Oseni scored three goals at the World Cup and was a player likened to the legendary Daniel Amokachi for his power play and enthusiasm.

But where is he today?

Oseni, now officially 24, is with Kieth Tieth Can Tho in Vietman, his fourth club in the Far Eastern country seen as the backwaters of football.

Still with the class of 2007 and we beam our searchlight on Yakubu Alfa.

The left footed midfielder scored the goal voted by the technical committee of FIFA as the best of the 2007 U-17 World Cup against Colombia in the Round of 16 which Nigeria won 2-1, a cracking shot that sent the ball to the top right corner and which Colombian keeper Mauricio Acosta was unable to stop.

Although he went on to play at the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, he never really made it top the senior national team after being part of the Flying Eagles team coached by Samson Siasia.

Alfa is now 25 officially but his last known club was Niger Tornadoes in 2014/205 after spells in Sweden and Greece.

Victor Brown was Nigeria’s super sub at the 2001 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.

Brown last wore the green colour of Nigeria in the final of that tournament against France, where the Eaglets were defeated 3-0.

Brown scored twice off the Golden Eaglets’ bench in the U-17 World Cup but he, alongside the likes of Karimu Shauibu, Moses Ayuba, Austin Nnamdi never quite reached the heights expected of them after their exploits at the junior team.

Femi Opabunmi though was in Nigeria’s 2002 World Cup team and made history as one of the youngest players to grace the FIFA ‘senior’ World Cup.

Brown later went back to school and read Accounting at the University of Abuja and admitted that footballers should think of their lives after hanging their boots or struck by premature injuries.

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