The 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup came to a thrilling finish this weekend with England dethroning Nigeria as champions of the world.
While it is no longer news that Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets could not qualify this time to muster a possible title defense in India, many are keen to know what has become of the youngsters once produced by this country that ruled the world.
The success of story of Nigeria at the Cadet World Cup started from its inception in 1985 when the team, then captained by Nduka Ugbade, took the world by surprise to win the top prize in China.
Down the line, Nigeria has won four more titles. Thus, her total triumph of five makes her the most successful country in the world as far as U-17 World Cup is concerned.
It is however disheartening that several years after, while Brazil can point to Neymar among other stars as a product of their U-17, Germany to Toni Kroos and Spain to David de Gea, there is virtually no Nigerian player rated alongside their erstwhile contemporaries who they even defeated en-route being crowned champions.
In this series of reports, PREMIUM TIMES looks at the country’s last three U-17 World Cup winning sides in 2007, 2013 and 2015.
Golden Eaglets Class of 2007
Despite allegations of often fielding overage players, Nigeria still had to wait for 14 years after her triumph in 1993 in Japan to win another FIFA U-17 World Cup.
The lucky ground was again in Asia, this time in South Korea, where the Golden Eaglets then handled by the late coach Yemi Tella went all the way.
Indeed, the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup had its own fair share of stars from James Rodriguez of Columbia, presently playing for Bayern Munich, to German midfielder Toni Kroos, now a key member with Real Madrid, a senior World Cup winner with the national team and he is also in the most recent FIFA Best XI.
Eden Hazard, David de Gea among others were all present in South Korea.
Interestingly, while Victor Moses who back then played for England is now a key member of the Super Eagles, no outfield player from the Golden Eaglets Class of 2007 is in the national team.
They ought to be at their peak now but here is what has become of the former champions
He is still one of the faces sill prominent from the team, but not at the level where many projected he would be.
Ajiboye was in goal for Nigeria in the final when the Eaglets faced and beat Spain that had David de Gea in between the sticks.
After stints with local clubs, Prime FC (Now Osun United) and Wikki Tourists, Ajiboye travelled to Spain where he signed for Pontevedra CF. The move to Spain was everything but successful for Ajiboye and that informed his return to the country where he joined Shooting Stars and then later Nasarawa United.
‘Aji Boy’, as he is fondly called, tried out at Warri Wolves before finally joining Plateau United which he helped to the NPFL title recently. Vacuum in the goalkeeping role in the Super Eagles led to Ajiboye’s invitation to the national team almost 10 years after his heroics at the Cadet World Cup.
Laide Okanlawon and Uche Okafor
Both were in the shadows of Ajiboye and never really hit the limelight after enjoying the big stage at the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
The duo featured briefly later in the U-20 and U-23 Olympic teams and turned in for a handful of local teams.
Just like most of his contemporaries struggling to keep afloat, Oseni presently plays club football in Vietnam.
He has transversed across 10 clubs since playing for the Golden Eaglets and he is at Hà Nội F.C. for now.
The player who last turned up for now relegated Shooting Stars has had two stints abroad; the most recent being with Llaneros F.C. in Colombia.
Nothing is heard of Balogun since the World Cup in 2007.
Udoh was key at the heart of defense for the Golden Eaglets in South Korea but he was unsuccessful in his attempts at playing abroad.
The defender went on to play for Akwa United, Heartland, Kano Pillars and Sunshine Stars all in the Nigerian league.
The central defender’s career was cut short by a deadly car accident in 2009 on his way to the Nigeria U-20 camp.
King Moses Osanga
Osanga is presently is with NPFL club, Ifeanyi Ubah. The striker, after his exploits with the Golden Eaglets, featured for Nigeria national under-20 football team at 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt.
The forward who dazzled many with his dashing runs in South Korea fizzled out earlier than expected.
Though with a lengthy list of teams that he featured for, Akinsola never hit it big after South Korea.
Chrisantus is often used to mirror the false hope the heroics of past Golden Eaglets team gave for Nigeria football.
Finishing as the highest goal scorer and second-best player in the 2007 FIFA World Cup saw clubs falling on themselves for Chrisantus.
But those heroics were like a smokescreen as Chrisantus, despite playing for different clubs never hit it big; he was literally ‘dead on arrival.’
The Golden Boot Winner played for such clubs as Hamburg in 2007, Karlsruher SC in the 2009–10 season, Turkish Süper Lig side Sivasspor, Las Palmas in Spain.
Chrisantus is presently playing for Lamia in Greece.
Ibrahim is an attacking midfielder playing for Slovak club, Slovan Bratislava. He has previously starred for teams like AS Trencín, Sporting Clube de Portugal, PSV, Celtic and Kilmarnock in Europe.
Touted to be the next Okocha, Rabiu never met the expectation, and injuries marred his achievements.
The Minna, Niger State- born player is currently with Niger Tornadoes F.C. He had also played for Helsingborgs IF in Sweden and AEK Larnaca..
Haruna was relatively a success compared to his peers, but many feel he could have achieved much more if he was more focused.
Having led the Golden Eaglets to victory in 2007, he also progressed to feature in the U-20 World Cup and ultimately in the South Africa 2010 FIFA Senior World Cup.
A player like Cesc Fabregas, who played a similar role like Haruna and even featured far back in 2003 edition of the FIFA U-17, is still very relevant.
It will be mild to say that Haruna is in the twilight of his career already; finding it difficult to get a club and undergoing trials with clubs in Europe yet again.
The ex-Eaglets captain previously played for teams like Monaco in France, Anzhi in Russia and last played for Dynamo Kiev.
Ademola Rafeal, Mustapha Ibrahim, Matthew Edile, Uremu Egbeta, Saheed Fabiyi are also in this class but with little to show after the South Korea 2007 FIFA World Cup.