In 2009, Nigeria the most populous black nation in the world hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup, it was the 13th Edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup held from 24th October to 15th November 2009. The tournament was under increasing threat from the armed rebel group, The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) who warned FIFA against hosting the tournament in Nigeria. However, the militants were offered amnesty in exchange for laying down their weapons, and the tournament went on smoothly without any incident.
Unknown to many fans, the tournament was the launch pad for some notable superstars, some of these stars were part of the ongoing FIFA world cup 2018 in Russia.
NEYMAR JR THE SUPERSTAR STARTED AT TESLIM BALOGUN
A quick check on the roaster of countries that are part of the 32 nations that qualified for Russia 2018 world cup shows that some of these countries came with Players that took part when Nigeria played host to the FIFA U-17 WORLDCUP 2009.
Out of all the stars found to have graced the turf at Nigeria 2009, Neymar Jr. the Brazilian is the biggest star of that unique group today. Unfortunately for Neymar Jr and his fellow young ones, they couldn’t make it out of Group B which was hosted at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere Lagos. Group B which included Switzerland (Group Winners), Mexico- second place and Brazil took third spot but they came short of getting a slot in the knockout as Best Thirds.
Today, one of the boys that ran on the turf of Teslim Balogun stadium is the most expensive footballer on the Planet.
OTHER STARS IN RUSSIA THAT GRACED NIGERIA 2009
Other countries with players that have Nigeria 2009 roots are
NIGERIA – Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor), Kenneth Omeruo (Loaned to Kasımpaşa, Chelsea) Olanrewaju Kayode (Shakhtar Donetsk)
GERMANY – Marc Andre Ter Stegen (Barcelona), Shrodan Mustafi (Arsenal), Mario Gotze (Dortmund),
BRAZIL – Alisson (Liverpool;Now the most expensive goalkeeper in the world) Coutinho (Barcelona), Neymar (PSG), Casemiro (Real Madrid).
SWITZERLAND – Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Ricardo Rodriguez. (Milan)
COSTA RICA – Joel Campbell (Arsenal)
SPAIN – Koke (Atletico Madrid,), Isco (Real Madrid), Morata (Chelsea), Sergio Roberto (Barcelona.)
While most of the players that played during Nigeria 2009 are presently core members of their teams and the go-to-guys in their national team, the Nigerians are almost spent forces, benchers at both club and National teams. In fact, some have called for the retirement of one or two of the players of the Super Eagles team to Russia and coincidentally the guys that represented us at Nigeria 2009 are part of the players the fans are calling for their heads
It’s noteworthy that age (falsification or otherwise) is a big factor in our development, while Neymar, Xhaka were truly young at 17 years many of their counterpart in green white green maybe said to have used passport ages which is what FIFA demands for all their competitions.
It’s time for our officials to be upright and do what is expected of them, we will continue to excel and conquer the world in what is supposed to be developmental tournaments i.e. U-17, U-20 . While we fly high at these developmental tournaments, others use it to discover the next generation of talents that will fly high in many years to come at Major international competition especially the FIFA WORLD CUP.
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