Former U-17 world cup winning captain and assistant coach Nduka Ugbade has spoken on why success at the youth level hasn’t been replicated in the Super Eagles.
The Nigerian U-17 football team holds the records for most World Cup titles with 5 trophies, but success at the youth level has failed to reflect in the senior team, with a round of 16 finish, the highest the Super Eagles have achieved at the men’s senior world cup tournament.
He said: “If you want me to talk like a football fan or supporter, I would say so many things can be involved in it. A very good domestic league can produce the required talent that will be able to put this in a very good perspective. Through the league, we will be able to harness talents that will pass through the junior national teams and eventually go to the senior team.
There are also many other things that have to do with football and science. Nutrition can be part of it, the quality of training can be part of it. Then the science that governs the game is practically 90% of it.”
The former El-Kanemi defender continued: “If I have to speak like a professional football educator, which I am now, and as a coach, honestly speaking, you are not going to take eleven friends and go to win the World Cup. There is more to it than just participating. To participate is one thing but to compete and contend is another. In this case, we need to bring in more scientific methods into our plans generally.
If I have to tell you, it was when I finished football that I realized the reason Brazilians, the Argentines, or Columbians are paid so high when they are bought by European clubs. The reason is that they employ science in the game of football. There are so many things that we in Africa, Nigeria, in particular, do not know about the game.
I am only trying to buttress the fact that we can translate our successes at the junior level to the senior level. This can be achieved when you give them a sound foundation and they begin to play in big clubs now in Europe and everywhere.”
” Then if you come to tactical discipline, how to create a situation where the ball can be won, understanding all parts of the pitch, marking very well and how to subdue and neutralize the opponents and so forth. If they know all these things scientifically, you also develop them physically.
It is not just about going 30 laps, 50 laps, or climbing the staircase. You must know why you are doing this and those reasons must translate into something good on the pitch. The players must know all these things by reason of functionality; like this is why they said I must not take too much eba or fufu by six or seven pm, this is the reason they asked me not to take this or that.
Nutrition governs the game so that you don’t get tired easily, but to remain agile. When my height is about five or six feet, my waist should be about 62 or 58, so I can move and cover more distance, I have to be quick, I have to receive the ball offensively, see every other person on the pitch, etc. So by the time they imbibe this and are able to train in Europe, by the time they get to 23 or 24 they are ready for the world.