EAGLETS’ HANDLERS DENY RIFT WITH NFF
The process of assembling a new Golden Eaglets' squad has been bedeviled by controversies in the recent time. Manu Garba and his technical crew have enjoyed more publicity off the pitch than the actual work they have done on the pitch.
No sooner did the screening exercise to select a squad for the team began than torrents of accusations started pouring in about the coaches' plot to include Premier League players who were considered to be far above the stipulated age limit to the team.
Now that the screening exercise has been concluded, Chairman of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Alhaji Aminu Maigari, appears resolute to exclude players considered to be too old for the team when he publicly declared that there was no place for Premier League stars in the Under-17 team.
However, Eaglets' spokesman, Mr Morakinyo Abodunrin, has refuted insinuations that the coaches were on collision course with the NFF. Speaking in a telephone interview, Abodunrin revealed that the coaches share Alhaji Maigari's hard stance on the issue of age cheats, adding that there was never a disagreement between the NFF and the coaches since every Nigerian agrees that using over-aged players in prosecuting our international championships in the past was the bane of the country's football development.
'The NFF is our employer and, therefore, there is no way we can embark on a collision course with the body that we are answerable to. We can't work against the guidelines of our bosses,' the image-maker stated. He continued: 'Besides, the issues raised are crucial to the development of the game in the country. The inclusion of over-aged players in age grade teams has not taken the country anywhere. The directive is clear. The NFF has made it categorical that it does not want age cheats in the squad and the coaches have agreed with them wholeheartedly on that matter.'
Abodunrin, however, posited that the exclusion of certain categories of players from the Eaglets' squad does not negate the fact that there could be genuine Under-17 players in the Premier League. In this regards, he revealed that a case would be put up for Mustapha Babadidi with the intention of convincing the NFF that the Gombe United's striker is truly within the age limit.
'We don't want to throw away the baby with the bad water. If there is any Premier League player we have enough evidence to prove that he is truly under the age of 17 years, that player is Mustapha Babadidi. Those who are alleging that he is an old player have not been able to come up with superior facts to buttress their claims. But we have enough facts to corroborate our resolve that he is not an age cheat and we are sure the NFF will agree with us considering the fact that the boy is still in school. We are sure that he will make the team.'
Abodunrin further asked Nigerians to be patient with the Eaglets' coaches, pointing out that people will not have any reason to doubt the real ages of the players that will make up the squad when the team is eventually unveiled.'We are not building the team in secrecy, some journalists were at the screening exercise in Abuja and they observed that the squad would be comprised of the youngest players in the history of Nigerian football.' On the next phase of camping, Abodunrin revealed that the team might resume camping by the end of this month at a yet-to-be-named venue, even though Calabar has been tipped as favourite.
'We are planning to resume camping towards the end of this month. We hope to resume with about 50 players. As we begin, any player that fails to live up to expectation would be decamped. We expect the players that will make the camp to be competitive to secure their places in the team and anyone that fails in this wise, would be dropped.
'On the choice of venue, there is no certainty yet about Calabar being our host because other states have also indicated interest to host the Eaglets. However, before we resume camping, the eventual host state would be unveiled,' he added.