12th March, 2023
By Chukwuemeka Opara
Football fans in Ebonyi have urged the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) not to disband the Flying Eagles after they won bronze at the recent U-20 AFCON in Egypt.
The national men’s U-20 team did not fare well in the competition won by Senegal’s club Lions on March 11.
While speaking with newsmen on Sunday in Abakaliki, the fans urged the NFF to ignore calls for wholesome changes to the team because it would be detrimental to the team’s world youth championship campaign in Indonesia.
According to Hillary Ogbonna, Secretary of the Ebonyi Football Association, time is running out to build a new team for the world championship in May.
“The team we saw in Egypt was not poor and we should recall that it won the West African Football Union (WAFU) zone B qualifying championship in 2022.
“The coaches must have identified areas of weakness and should scout for eligible, competent players to correct such deficiencies,” he said.
Julius Agbo, a member of the Flying Eagles set of 2009, also advised the NFF to provide adequate exposure to the team due to the high standard of the world championship.
“The team was mauling academy and non-league teams in Nigeria during its preparations and people felt it was strong. When the team met national teams at the U-20 AFCON, we discovered that it was not competitive enough to win the trophy,” he said.
Maxwell Udoh, a teacher and soccer enthusiast, urged the NFF to begin immediate preparations for the Indonesian championship to create the desired impact.
“The team should be camped overseas for a long period to train with modern facilities and play top-grade friendly matches.
“The coaches should avoid controversies of strengthening the team with foreign or locally-based players but ensure adequate preparations to confront the best in the world,” he said.
Mrs Olamma Egbogu, a Sports Psychologist, called for adequate psyching of the players to meet the standard of the emerging world’s best.
“The target set for the team by the coaches and relevant authorities was the world championship qualification as the emphasis was not placed on winning the U-20 AFCON.
“It was noticed that immediately the team qualified for the semi-finals which guaranteed a world championship place, it lost the steam to go for the trophy,” she said.