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Flamingos’ feat is not an end, but means to an end, says Uchegbulam




‘Enough of the celebration, let’s get into the real business’ is what seems to be the underlining statement by former NFF Vice President and now Imo State FA chairman, Amanze Uchegbulam.

He has cautioned that over celebrating the modest achievement of Nigeria’s Flamingos at the just concluded FIFA Women’s U17 World Cup could be counter productive.

He acknowleged the brilliant achievement of the girls and the attendant praises that the current NFF eexcutive and the task force set up are recieving.

But he cautioned that Nigeria should look beyond the current celebration and think of how to use the success as a launch pad for greater perfomences.

Uchegbulam was the chairman of a panel of enquiry into Nigeria’s poor perfomance on home soil at the then World Youth Championship that is now called the U20 World Cup.


The report of that panel, issued on 1 June 1999,  like most others before and after it, is gathering dust somewhere unimplemented.

 The Amanze Uchegbulam Panel, not minding the military background of the officer and gentleman, of Col. Abdulmumini Aminu,  subjected the then NFA chairman,   to a two-hour grilling during one of its seatings.

The conclusion of the panel: “The ages declared by Nigerian players were questionable, if not downright false”.

The report concludes that the cheats were already having a negative impact on the national team, as players expected to graduate from youth sides burn out by the time they reach the senior national team.

In a recent exchange with the Sports Village Square, Uchegbulam remarked: “I think as administrators, we should think beyond just celebrating.

Kelechi Ihenacho in 2007/8 as MVP of U13 tournament in Abuja

Our worry should be where these ladies would be in 10 years. Would they have graduated to U20/ U23 and eventually Super Falcons?

“That should be our main task and worry. Please pencil down the names of the Germans and you will see those ladies in Germany national team in 10 years.

“Would that be same for us? Time shall tell.”

He illustrated his point with the fallout of the 2007 U17 World Cup in South Korea.

“De Gea was in goal for Spain while Ajiboye was our super keeper christened Ajiboy.

“Today, De Gea is still Spain/Manchester United keeper and last time I heard about Ajiboye, he was Plateau United keeper.


“I don’t know whether he is still there. That is the development we as grassroots administrators should be concerned about and not ephemeral achievement.

He recalled the path that Kelechi Iheanacho passed through on his way to stardom.

“Remember in 2007/08,  we had U13 competition courtesy of Sani Lulu’s pet project. Kelechi Ihenacho was MVP and by 2012, Barrister Chris Green had drafted him into U17 team.

“He became an international name 10 years later and still is. That is development which should be our job. Please let’s be focused for once and do our job.

“In summary, Task Force, your job is not done yet. Monitor those ladies for growth into the Super Falcons.


“That’s where we need them and not age group achievement.

 “That’s my humble submission.”

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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