Nigeria’s cadet national team, Golden Eaglets on Friday flew to Niamey, Niger Republic without their coach, Manu Garba, as they was not enough sitting space on the aircraft for the flight.
However, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) officials said Manu, and four of the players that could also not make the trip on Friday, will join the team on Saturday, ahead of their first match, against Burkina Faso, at the African U-17 Nations Cup zonal qualifiers.
A new format approved for the competition at the CAF Extra-Ordinary General Assembly which took place in Rabat 13 months ago means countries in each regional block gather in one country within the block to play a qualifying tournament, as against the old format of home-and-away qualifying series.
Only the winning team from each of the blocks (apart from the block of the defending champions that will produce two teams) will qualify for the final tournament, slated for Tanzania next year.
The Eaglets will play their first match of the tournament on Monday against Burkina Faso, before taking on Cote d’Ivoire on Thursday and Benin Republic next Sunday.
Niger Republic will trade tackles with Ghana’s Black Starlets and the Baby Hawks of Togo in the 7-Nation WAFU Zone B qualifiers.
A total of 16 players made the trip with members of the technical crew and backroom staff, aboard an ASKY airline flight on Friday morning.
The remaining four players as well as Manu and team administrator, Sirajo Hassan will fly from Abuja on Saturday morning.
Five of the 20 players selected for the tournament by Manu, who also led Nigeria to win the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup in United Arab Emirates, are from the U15 national team, Future Eagles that featured at the African Youth Games (AYC).
The Future Eagles earlier won gold in the football event at the 2nd African Youth Games in Botswana, but could only get silver at the third edition in Algeria last month.
The Nigerian team to Niger Republic 2018 has three goalkeepers: John Ikedinachukwu Amah, Joseph John Essien, and Joseph Ayomide Oluwabusola, as well as six defenders: David Akulo Ishaya, Sunday Cletus Odey, Clement Chigozie Ikenna, Sani Abacha Suleiman, Muhammad Ibrahim, and Adam Agba’a Mustapha.
Also listed for the Eaglets are eight midfielders: Samson Okikiola Tijani, Hassan Hussaini, Saviour Johnson Isaac, Olatomi Alfred Olaniyan, Peter Agba, Babatunde Jimoh Akinsola, Ibraheem Olalekan Jabaar, and Akinwunmi Ayobami Amoo; as well as three forwards: Oluwatimilehin Lawrence Adeniyi, Olakunle Olusegun Junior, and Favour Akem.