Abuja – No fewer than 53 players on Monday took part in the first screening programme of the Flying Eagles ahead of preparations for the 2015 African Youth Championship (AYC) qualifiers.
The team’s head coach, Manu Garba, had on Friday, Feb. 28 invited 35 players for a screening camp.
The camp was located at the FIFA Technical Centre, in the Abuja National Stadium Complex.
The coach told NAN that 33 players, out of the 35 the team’s technical crew invited, arrived camp on Sunday and participated in the first screening exercise on Monday.
“However, Etebo Oghenekaro of Warri Wolves FC and Hafeez Aremu of City of David (COD) FC of Lagos are yet to join the camp.
“They were in action for their various clubs at the weekend in the CAF Confederation Cup and Nigeria National League (NNL) respectively, and will hopefully be joining us on Tuesday,’’ he said.
Oghenekaro featured in Warri Wolves’ 3-2 away victory against Cameroon’s Union Douala, while Aremu played for COD FC in their 0-1 loss to Ekiti United.
However that the 33 invited players were joined by about 20 others, who felt they could make it, and they were tried out by the team’s technical crew.
Garba explained the decision to invite 35 players and also encourage other players who fall within the specified age bracket to turn up for screening.
He said this was because there was the need to include many new names in the team.
The coach said some of the players who won the 2013 FIFA U-17 Cup in the Golden Eaglets’ team he handled had left the country for clubs abroad.
He however said he might have to call them when the need arose in the future.
“Those who make up the nucleus of the team, which is about 10 players, are already outside the country, so we have to look for new players to complement what we already have.
“So, by the time we finish with this two-week screening exercise, if we are lucky to find some players, we will mix them up with what we have and beef up the team as the need arises,’’ Garba said.
Nigeria will face winners of the preliminary round fixture between Kenya and Tanzania in the second round of the AYC qualifying series in May.
In the fixture, the Nigerian team will play the first leg game away, and victory will take them into the final round of the qualifiers.
The continental championship is slated for Senegal in March 2015.(NAN)