By Bruno U. Okeke
Sometime in 2015, my very good friend was privileged to be among the Nigerian coaches that attended a capacity building program in England courtesy of the NFF. In one of the lectures, where the resource person happened to be the Head Coach of the English FA, he had an altercation with him, when he (English FA Head Coach) enumerated England’s ten years program to win the world cup in 2022.
He said immediately after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the FA decided to embark on a 10 year program that may likely see the three Lions playing up to the finals of the World Cup in Qatar. He said they selected 40 players between the ages of 11 to 13 years, and send them to various clubs Academy and had national coaches attached to the academies to be monitoring the players. He said in 2014, the boys were selected for the UEFA U-16 championship, where they were knocked out in the quarter finals, but qualified for the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
I remember that the English team in that tournament were beaten roundly in their group. Nigeria won that tournament. He said that the players after that tournament, still returned back to their various club academies to continue training and the coaches were keeping a tab on them. “I remember him mentioning one small goalkeeper that is in Manchester United with a lion heart, but still too small to stand between the woods. He said that their projection is that in 2022,at least 8 players from that team would be in England starting line up.
“I remember telling him in clear terms that England can never win a world Cup in this our generation, citing certain things the English man do that will make it impossible for them to achieve that dream. One of them was that the English man is too restrictive and full of himself. That he is too comfortable that he hardly learn from others. That their players hardly play outside England and finds it extremely difficult to interact, a country that believes only on their own knowledge cannot achieve such a feat”. My friend said to me.
He added: “ I remember the man saying that as the Head Coach of the English FA, that he is in charge of other coaches, that also in charge of the English U-17 team for 17 years (in 2015) “. When he saw my friend’s disposition on their programs, he jokingly added “we hope to play the finals then with Nigeria”.
Just 7 years into the program, the English team has done the unthinkable, winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup with six Nigerians in the squad. Nigeria that won the U-17 World Cup two years earlier, could not even qualify for the U-20 version.
Just yesterday, England’s U-19 football team won the European Championship, beating Portugal 2-1 in the final match. And guess what? Nigeria has promising kids in squad also. Midfielder Tayo Edun and Lukas Nmecha, a striker.
Will England carry through their ten year program of ensuring that they play in finals of the Senior World Cup in Qatar? Did they take my friend’s accusation of their restricting things to themselves serious, by allowing some Nigerians into their team? Will their dream of playing Nigeria in the finals of 2022 World Cup come to reality? Only time will tell. Because, he who fails to plan, plans to fail.