Very little was known about him before 1993, when he took a bunch of young lads to the U-17 World Youth Championship and returned with the trophy. Since then, Fanny Amu has become a household name in Nigerian football. In this interview with Kunle Adewale, the former Secretary General of the Nigeria Football Federation condemned to the trash bin the allegation that the country cheats at age-grade competitions.

Nigerias Golden Eaglets penultimate week won the 2015 U 17 World Cup in Chile, making it the fifth time the country have won the competition, having first won in China in 1985, Japan in 93, South Korea in 87 and United Arab Emirates two years ago. But in spite of the successes recorded in age grade competitions, it is yet to translate to success with countrys senior team Super Eagles. It is baffling that despite the huge successes at U17 level, the Super Eagles are yet to play in the quarter final of the senior World Cup in spite of having appeared at the Mundial five times.

A lot of reasons have been adduced as to why not many Nigerian players that were world beaters at age-grade level dont transmit to the senior team. And the most popular of these arguments is that the country cheats at age-grade competitions by parading overage players at the junior level.

However, coach of the 1993 U17 winning squad in Japan. Fanny Amu, disagree with the claim, insisting that is a wrong notion. He would rather see the problem as discrepancies – not cheats.

“All over the world we witness age discrepancies, but Nigeria has never cheated and will never cheat. It is the information given to the federation that it relies on; so it is the parents of the players that cheat not the association. I have never seen any parents, except Osaze Odemwingie’s father that came out to say my child is above the age bracket of the competition that he has been invited for.

From then on, he was taken to the senior national team. Other parents would have kept quiet. So let other parents be honourable enough to say the true age of their wards. The association did not give birth to these players; it is the age they declared that it will follow. It is now the duty of the parents to say my child is not that age you are attributing to him. Adokiye Amiesiemaka contested the age of a player during the 2009 U-17 WYC hosted in Nigeria and people were calling for his head. But this is a man that has integrity and those that called for his head have no integrity and they are no more Nigerian than Amiesiemaka. So let us be honourable enough to say the truth,” Amu said.

Asked if all the players he took to the 1993 World Youth Championship were within the age limit he said: “I’m not their parents. All I know is that I’m the only coach in Nigeria that presented players that lasted for 15 years and would have played for five more years, barring injuries. Each time I run into them, I do tell them una no de comot?

The coach cum publisher explained that Nigeria’s football did not get to the level it ought to be in the last 20 years due to failure to build on existing foundation. “We don’t follow the template left by the predecessors,” the U-17 winning coach said.

For Amun, Nigerias victory at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa raised a number of questions. “Why wait for 19 years to win a Nations Cup? What were we waiting for before now? What has caused it? Have we arrived? When the team was put together we were made to believe it was a team that will inculcate a lot of home-based players for a rebuilding process and that was the position of the Nigeria Football Federation, the ministry, the government and the fans. Therefore it was a success,” Amu said.

On whether he ever thought the Eagles would return with the trophy, the former NFA technical director said he was the ‘native doctor’ Nigerians failed to celebrate.

“As far back as December 2012, I predicted that Nigeria was going to play in the Nations Cup finals in spite of the fact that we are made to believe the team was in a rebuilding process. The only thing I saw in the final was green-white-green. And by the time the team got to the final and knowing full well that they would be well rewarded by the government if they win the trophy they therefore gave it their all, he said.

He however warned that no single individual should lay claim to the victory in South Africa, saying every single person contributed his own quota.

“Every Nigerian was part and parcel of the victory. People died in the process, some people sacrificed their health in the process, but one person can only be in charge. When I won the U-17 WYC in 1933, I did not lay claim to the glory alone because I just happened to be the chief coach. The government brought money, the association was there to give their backing administratively and the fans were there. It was a division of labour. If you should ask Keshi about the lapses he encountered, he would not remember again. So the victory belongs to everybody – not him alone. He gained the benefits in cash, while other contributors gained it in self-satisfaction,” he noted.

Amun however disagreed that Nigerian football had been on the wane prior to winning the 2013 Nations Cup. This is despite the fact the country failed to qualify for the previous edition of the competition jointly hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in 2012 and even failed to book a place in the football event of the last Olympic Games in London.

“The country’s football was just going through a process. I challenge the notion that our football fortune had dwindled. It just went through a process which is not something new. Must we qualify for every competition? We have over 50 African nations registered with CAF and every one of them is struggling for a ticket. Cape Verde took African football by surprise in 2013 and more surprises are still coming. We were all living witnesses to Togo’s qualification for the World Cup in 2006 and 2014 at the expense of established African countries. That a coach won the Nations Cup and even the World Cup does not really matter, because another coach that has better knowledge and understanding of the game might not win any trophy, he said.

He also faulted the notion that the absence of a Nigerian on the CAF and FIFA executives is taking a toll on the country’s football, saying it is not compulsory that we must have a representative in CAF and FIFA executive committees.

“Despite the fact we have no representatives in the executive of the two bodies; no nation is more favoured than Nigeria in any of the federation. We should learn how to do things right. Must everybody have to be an executive committee member of CAF? The influence that Nigeria wields in FIFA and CAF, no country in the world has it,” he noted.

The former NFF General Secretary indeed urged the current national team coach, Sunday Oliseh to scout for more fantastic players like Carl Ikeme, who will put in their best for the glory of the country.

I would advise Oliseh to continue in the good way he has started most especially scouting for good and talented players which has now brought to lime light goalkeeper Carl Ikeme. As a coach, I am particularly happy about this because if you have abundant talents on ground blending wont be a problem. Oliseh should go out of the shores and spend more time in Europe and other parts of the world where Nigerians are playing and bring them back home to form a solid national team, Amun said.

Whoever will believe that we have a player like Carl Ikeme waiting to be tapped in England and nobody has ever thought of giving him the call up before Oliseh did so.

The solution is to search for new talents and I am in total support for Oliseh to go all out in search of quality new players for the Eagles. He should look inward too and what I mean by looking inward is that he should spread his tentacles and dragnets to the Golden Eaglets, the Flying Eagles and the U23 national team to get as much as possible talents that would form a pool which he would work on to give Nigerians the team they would be proud of, he said.

Do you believe him that Nigeria never cheated at the U17 level? Make your views known in the box below:

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