2007 FIFA U17 World Cup: David De Gea vs Dele Ajiboye, who get it right?

Hassan Abdulsalam

September 9, 2007, was one of the moment that Nigerians and Spaniards can’t easily forget because Dele Ajiboye and David De Gea proved their worth to the world.

FIFA U17 is the cadet championship for developmental football showcase in the world.

Nigeria battle Spain at the competition that ended in a goalless draw at the regular time.

Ajiboye popularly called Aji-boy by the commentator during the competition in South Korea is one of Nigeria’s most consistent player in FIFA U17 World cup in 2007.

He denied Spain at several crucial points in the final match as he denied both Daniel Aquino and Iago in the closing stages of normal time. He saved low to his left to frustrate Aquino, but for Ajiboye, his greatest moment was to stop a shot from the Barcelona starlet.

Ajiboye saved Iago’s penalty and he is convinced that the memories of the win will stay with him for a very long time indeed.

After his superlative performance at the tournament, he was called for the Nigerian U20 team for the 2009 African Youth Championship in Rwanda and was a member of the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt.

He was Nigeria’s starting goalkeeper for the 2012 Olympic qualifiers and All Africa Games qualifiers under coach Augustine Eguavoen.

In 2018 he was named in Nigeria’s preliminary 30 man squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia but failed to make a 23-man list for super eagles.

He presently plies his trade with Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL side Plateau United.

His counterpart, David De Gea of Spain was in goal for his team against Nigeria in the final.

De Gea was the captain for the Spain under-21 national team that won the European Championship in 2011 and 2013 and also competed in the 2012 Olympics. He made his debut for the senior team in 2014 and was selected for 2014 and 2018 World Cup.

In 2011, De Gea signed for Manchester United for £17.8 million, a British record for a goalkeeper, De Gea currently plies his trade with Manchester United with offers from Real Madrid and PSG.

The two goalkeepers should have been the talking point in the world of football but most Nigerians that followed the World cup in Korea don’t know the where about of Dele Ajiboye especially those that don’t follow the local league.

Super Eagles needed goalkeepers like Peter Rufai, Vincent Enyeama at the just concluded FIFA world cup in Russia but as God wants it, Nigeria adopted inexperience Goalkeeper.

Europeans have structured for their talented players from age grade competition to National teams but here in Nigeria we usually seek for ‘Cooked players’ to represent the national team.

Super Eagles are talented with raw players but the country has failed to develop and transfer them to represent the senior National team.

The set of players that won Gold for golden eaglets in Korea couldn’t represent Super Eagles currently.

What really went wrong with these set of players is just the same occurrence that has been happening to Nigerians stars at the age grade competition.

He was not the only one that participated in the tournament where is the likes of Stanley Okoro they call him little Messi, Kabiru Akinsola and the likes, I’m very sure if Yemi Tella (may God bless his soul) is still alive he will be very sad about this, his players were good and had a lots of potentials in them.

Age has been another factor for Nigerian players falling off the ladder so quickly. Do we ask our selves while the current U17 doesn’t perform too well in the last AFCON U17 in Tanzania, most players to be used at the tournament failed the MRI test, it’s surprising right?, has Nigeria been using over-aged players for past U17 tournaments?.

The championship also produced James Rodríguez, Eden Hazard, Toni Kross, Marcelo among others.

Eden Hazard played three times at the 2007 U-17 World Cup and then began earning a reputation at Lille as one of the most exciting young players in Europe. He joined Chelsea in 2012.

Toni Kroos won the best player of the tournament after scoring five goals and assisted four times. Ten years on and he has become one of the world’s best midfielders, winning the World Cup with Germany in 2014 along with three Bundesliga titles and the Champions League with Bayern Munich. Since moving to Real Madrid, he has added another two Champions League winners’ to his medals.

James Rodriguez played three times for Colombia at the 2007 U-17 edition. Seven years later he scored mouth watering goal at 2014 FIFA world cup. Porto took him to Europe in 2010 and then he played for Monaco and Real Madrid. Currently, the 26-year-old is playing at Bayern Munich in Germany.

Nigeria which happens to be the most successful nation in the tournament’s history, with five titles and three runners up has not been able to optimize the potential of the players that won the titles for them. They have abandoned so many of them after the tournaments.

Until we begin to appreciate outstanding players that do well in international competitions, the country will continue losing great players like David Alaba, Dele Alli, among others to international countries that know their value at our detriment.

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