The Super Eagles is yet to recover from the exit of the late Rashidi Yekini as its top striker. Yekini, who betrothed the national scene like a colossus, made the team look menacing, especially within the continental scene. Since he exited the Eagles, the team is still suffering from lack of reliable striker.
Like as it took the nation years to replace Thompson Usiyen after he quit the then Green Eagles in 1978, so it is looking like getting a replacement for Yekini, until Taiwo Awoniyi, busted into the national scene, his emergence rekindling hope of he being a likely successor to Yekini.
Call for his introduction into the Super Eagles became deafening after his brace helped qualify the Dream Team for the All Africa Games last Sunday. The Dream Team which played goalless against Zambia in Abuja was at the verge of missing out of the Games until Coach Samson Siasia invited Awoniyi to help rescue the team. And he did not disappoint as his brace ensured that Nigeria qualified for the Games on 2-1 goals aggregate.
Should the lad, who shown like million stars at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013 with four goals and later at the African Youth Championship in Dakar, Senegal last month, where he scored three goals be invited to the Super Eagles?
Not many players replicate their goal scoring form through the ranks of the national teams as Awoniyi is presently exhibiting. He scored four times at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in UAE to finish second behind behind teammate, Kelechi Iheanacho, with six goals to his credit.
The lad is attracting attention because of his creative instinct, which has made a difference in the different under-age teams he has played for. Awoniyi’s brace against Uruguay in the quarter-final in UAE will be fondly remembered because of the sheer beauty of these goals.
Today’s football is not about age, but the value one will add to the team. If age is a definite factor in selecting national team, then Argentine captain, Lionel Messi, would not have stared for his country when he did. So also the like of David Beckham, Theo Walcott, and Michael Owen would not have been considered for the Three Lions when they started playing for England. All made their respective senior caps between the ages of 18 and 20 years. The implication of selecting these players at such young age is that the focus is on player’s confidence, maturity, determination and ability to make a difference when given the opportunity to do so.
Because of the above, Awoniyi’s coach at the Flying Eagles, Manu Garba, believes that he is ripe for the Super Eagles. He, therefore, called on the handlers of the senior national team to emulate the confidence U-23 coach, Samson Siasia, reposed in Awoniyi by inviting the player to the Super Eagles.
“I am happy for the coach (Siasia) and the country for qualifying for the All Africa Games. The most important thing is that the coach believes in the younger boys, (U-20 players) and gave them opportunity to prove themselves and they did not disappoint,“ said Garba, adding, “These players are good for the Super Eagles.”
Editor of Supersport.com, Emeka Enyadike, says the time is now for Awoniyi to be moved to Super Eagles adding that NFF should not allow him waste his talent with the age cadre.
“Taiwo Awoniyi is definitely ripe for the Super Eagles and needs to be included in the team now. We always want to keep wasting our young prospects in the Junior teams, like Pyagbara is still in U-20 after playing in Turkey 2013, and playing for the Super Eagles…. move him up now,” he wrote in his facebook.
“That’s why the Super Eagles players don’t last long, they spend too much time playing junior Football … Ahmed Musa was playing for U-20, U-23 and Super Eagles at the same time…..We need to take the chance when we find them … Michael Owen was already playing and scoring for England at 18 in the World Cup, I am not bothered about players’ ages but how good they are,” he wrote.
Head Coach of Kogi United FC, Yomi Elijah said Awoniyi would walk straight to his team if he were the Super Eagles head coach noting that his physical fitness and mental alertness will put any defence in trouble.
“If I’m the coach of the Super Eagles, Taiwo will be in my starting lineup, I’ve watched him play in Ilorin and I’ve said this boy would go places, I’m happy he’s grown to be a better player, I hope the NFF will do just that by allowing him to move up to Super Eagles,” the former ABS coach noted.
Sports Editor for Confluence FM, Lokoja, Tosin Ojo, also added watching 17-year-old Awoniyi reminds her of the good old days of late Rashidi Yekini for Super Eagles.
She urged authorities concerned to give it a try by encouraging Awoniyi and his likes to play for Super Eagles.
But former Super Eagles midfielder, Friday Ekpo, thinks that the player should be allowed to mature before giving the opportunity to play for the Super Eagles.
“Awoniyi has really surprised everyone with his level of adaptability in the Dream Team. Just coming from the Flying Eagles that won the U-20 Africa Youth Championship in Senegal, it was expected that stage fright and fatigue could unsettle him in the team but that was not the case. Without looking at his age you may be forced to draft him into the Super Eagles based on his current goal scoring form. However, I believes he needs time to upgrade himself.”
Former Super Eagles striker and 1997 African Footballer of the Year, Victor Ikpeba warned against rushing him into the Super Eagles so as not to hamper his development.
“Awoniyi is gradually working his way up and we must allow him to develop well,” Ikpeba said.
“He needs more time to hone his skills. Incidentally I spotted Awoniyi in my team during the Copa Coca-Cola U-16 championship in Nigeria and no one believed he would become a big hit.
“He will be ready for the Eagles in the next two years. The 2017 Nations Cup will be the best time for him to blossom.”