By Ovundah Nyeche.
More than the issue of age cheating, which is to a large extent being dealt with by FIFA, one of the most challenging issues plaguing African football in general is the issue of right transition from youth scene to the big scene.
We win a lot of age grade competitions, but the progress from age grade competitions to the Super Eagles in the case of Nigeria is not very straight forward.
Also the transition from these age grade competitions to playing regularly and consistently in good clubs which would give our players the right visibility and development is even worse of.
With poor mentorship, greedy and inept agents, careless and ignorant FA officials many African players with very bright futures get short changed as they go to clubs which in effect are burial grounds to their careers.
A case study.
After the FIFA U 17 tournament in South Korea Chrisantus Macaulay of Nigeria won the golden boot, Ransford Osei of Ghana won the silver boot and Toni Kroos of Germany won the bronze boot.
Chrisantus would get a contract at Hamburger SV II from Hearts of Abuja and after several loans to several clubs, he is still playing but in lowly Real Murcia with only 3 goals since 2018. He did not score any goal for his other clubs Reus and Lamia.
In his words “What I went through at Hamburg was crazy, six years, 10 different coaches. I was always close to the first team but as it is in football, most managers have what they want, so every new manager always comes with special demands”. In effect he wasted six years of his career at Hamburg.
Osei would pendulate in Ghana for a while, go to Maccabi Haifa, amidst several loans, a stint in Ghana again and since this year has been a player for Palanga in the Lithuanian league and has scored no goal.
Kroos on the other hand would develop from the Bayern Munich II to the main team, have his fair share of loan to Bayern Leverkusen, come back to Bayern Munich and develop into a world class midfielder, win the world cup with Germany in 2014, win the Bundesliga 3 times, win the UEFA Champions League 4 times, win the La Liga. He is playing in his second world cup.
He is currently one of the best midfielders in world football and very instrumental to the success of any team he plays for.
All of them Chrisantus, Osei, Kroos are currently playing football in different club sides, but while one can be said to have fulfilled his potentials, the other 2 can’t really say so.
Truth is that not all youth players go on to be stars, but more often than not, many African players who do well in age grade competitions tend to stagnant in their career and especially go to clubs that put a tombstone on their career.
How can this trend be reversed? What roles do FAs have to play to deal with this wasteful trend? How can we raise sensible agents?