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Give Young Players A Chance, Kanu Urges Keshi

Oladipo Okubanjo

The prove of player’s maturity to play for the Nigeria men’s senior national soccer team is not in the age but the quality of talent, mental and physical capacity of the player to deliver on the big stage, a former Super Eagles captain Nwankwo Kanu has said.

His comments come in the wake of a declaration by the Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi, that some prominent members of the current national Under-20 squad, whom not a few had suggested for the senior side, may not be ready to play for the Super Eagles. “I’ve seen them play sometimes and I think they have very good players,” said Keshi.

“I have also worked with some of them -(Kelechi) Iheanacho, (Taiwo) Awoniyi and (Dele) Alampasu. So I know how good they are.” “If I see that they are ready for the Super Eagles, they will come in.

But we have to understand there is a difference with playing for the Under-20 and the Super Eagles,” he added. Though the Flying Eagles are due to participate in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which begins on May 30 in New Zealand, Kanu has suggested the immediate integration of members of the team to the Super Eagles.

The players, he said, are good enough irrespective of their young   ages. “If you see a player who is 16 years and you know he’s good, he’s good,” Kanu said.

“Look at Wayne Rooney for example, at what age did he start playing for Manchester United? “When I joined the national team I was also very young, so the age doesn’t matter, but what the person can do.

The former former Inter Milan and Arsenal striker urged Keshi to give the youthful players the needed exposure in the Super Eagles. “The coach should use this opportunity to expose these young lads because the more they play with the experienced players, the faster they grow and improve.

“We don’t have to wait until they are 30 or 25 before they’re called to the Super Eagles because if they’re good, they’re good. You have to try them and if they are not good at least you’ve given them the opportunity,” said the former African Footballer of the Year, who won the European Champions League with Ajax Amsterdam at the age of 18.

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