The city of Kaduna is experiencing high-level excitement with the arrival of the U-20 National Team, Flying Eagles, on Sunday for a two-month camping programme.
Coach Manu Garba and wards formally kicked off preparations for the 19th African Youth Championship at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium on Monday, with the FIFA U-17 World Cup –winning Coach starting his build –up with 30 players.
The squad is loaded with sterling performers from his U-17 World Cup winners, including Captain Musa Muhammed, the talismanic goalkeeper Dele Alampasu, defenders Mustapha Abdullahi, Wilfred Ndidi, Izu Omego and Zaharadeen Bello, midfielders Alfa Abdullahi, Ifeanyi Mathew and Akinjide Idowu, and forward Bernard Bulbwa.
An exciting addition is the Enyimba FC holding midfielder Kingsley Sokari, who shone brilliantly in an international friendly between the Eagles B and Ghana’s Olympic Team, which marked the opening of the Akwa Ibom Stadium, Uyo on November 7.
Garba, who is being assisted by close pal Nduka Ugbade (with whom he also won the U-17 World Cup), will perfect strategies with his team in Kaduna for two months before the team embarks on a final training camp in February 2015. The team will undergo a two –week break just before Christmas, to resume early January 2015.
NFF’s Director of Competitions, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, said on Monday that the Federation is working assiduously to arrange friendly matches for the six-time African champions.
“We know that apart from the training programme, the team needs good knock-around games against quality opposition. We are working hard at ensuring that we get strong teams to play the Flying Eagles before the 2015 African Youth Championship,” Sanusi said in Abuja.
Nigeria won the African title at U-20 level in 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 2005 and 2011, with Coach Sam John Obuh leading the last set of winners in South Africa in 2011.
The 19th African Youth Championship finals will be staged in Senegal, March 8-22, 2015.