Five-time world champions, Nigeria, flew out of Abuja on Wednesday on their way to Tanzania to take part in the 13th Africa U17 Cup of Nations taking place in that country from April 14 to 28.
Players and officials were seen off at the airport by Acting President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Seyi Akinwunmi, who charged them to do the nation proud by lifting the U17 AFCON trophy in Dar es Salaam on April 28.
The Golden Eaglets secured their ticket to Tanzania after winning the WAFU B U17 Tournament in Niger Republic in September last year, and will be aiming to be one of Africa’s four flag-bearers at the FIFA U17 World Cup finals now scheduled for Brazil later this year.
Nigeria, Africa’s U17 football powerhouse, edged fellow juggernauts Ghana on penalties in Niamey to secure their slot in Tanzania, and are in the same Group A as hosts Tanzania, Uganda and Angola.
Tanzania made their way into the draw automatically as hosts, while Uganda won the Central East zonal finals held in Tanzania in August last year, and Angola triumphed at the COSAFA U17 Tournament in Mauritius a month earlier.
Nigeria is making her ninth appearance in this competition, having won it twice previously (Seychelles 2001 and Togo 2007), while Tanzania is making a second appearance. Angola is making a fourth appearance, but it is a first ever appearance at this level for Uganda.
Cameroon, Guinea, Senegal and Morocco make up Group B.
Both Cameroon and Guinea are appearing for the seventh time at the U17 AFCON, while Morocco and Senegal are both appearing for the second time.
The Eaglets will take on their Tanzanian counterparts in Sunday’s tournament opener at the National Stadium, Dar es Salaam.
An interesting variable in Sunday’s equation is the fact that Nigeria legend Emmanuel Amuneke, who is head coach of the Tanzania National Team, Taifa Stars (and recently qualified the Stars for a first ever AFCON finals after 39 years), also oversees the other National Teams of Tanzania and would be involved in their technical preparation.
Amuneke is highly familiar with the Nigeria bench, which has Manu Garba as head coach and Nduka Ugbade as one of the assistants.
When Manu Garba led the Golden Eaglets to win the FIFA U17 World Cup for the fourth time in the United Arab Emirates in 2013, Amuneke and Ugbade were his assistants.
Two years later, in Chile, Amuneke was the head coach as Nigeria won a fifth title at that level.
After Sunday’s encounter, the Eaglets will tackle Angola on April 17 and confront Uganda on April 20.
21 EAGLETS FOR U17 AFCON FINALS
Sunday Stephen, Shedrack Tanko, Ogaga Oduko, Samson Okikiola Tijani, Clement Chigozie Ikenna, David Akulo Ishaya, Olakunle Junior Olusegun, Mayowa David Abayomi, Wisdom Ubani, Adrian Akande, Mubaraq Gata Adeshina, Shuaib Abdulrazaq, Akinkunmi Ayobami Amoo, Olatomi Alfred Olaniyan, Charles Etim, Suleman Shaibu, Peter Agba, Divine Nwachukwu, Ibraheem Olalekan Jabaar, Fawaz Abdullahi, Ayomide Oluwabusola.