Sports Features of Fri, 19 May 20171
Wonderkids of the U-17 Nations Cup: Where are they now?
In previous years, the U-17 Nations Cup has afforded fans of the African game a first glimpse of some of the brightest young talents on the continent.
Some of these players have gone on to become household names, while others have fallen by the wayside and failed to realise their considerable potential.
In this feature, KweséESPN remember some of the stars of U-17 Afcons past, and review where these young stars are today.
2005: Winners – The Gambia
He’s spent this season back in France on loan with Metz from Osmanlispor, having previously represented Bordeaux, Ajaccio and Nancy.
Simon Zenke, Nigeria: Like Diabate, Zenke netted in each group stage game at the U-17 event, but couldn’t help Nigeria reach the knockout rounds.
He’s yet to make his bow for the senior side, but has carved out a career in France and Turkey before signing for Belgian side Tubize last year.
Ousman Jallow, The Gambia: The hosts clinched a rare international honour when they finished second in their group behind Ghana before eliminating South Africa in the semis then besting the Black Starlets in the final. Jallow struck two against Mali in the group and then clinched the title with an 87th-minute winner in the final in Bakau.
Nadir Bendahmane, Algeria: One of the great forgotten faces of Algerian football, Bendahmane looked like future world beater when he helped the North African heavyweights to silver in 2009, but never truly kicked on.
His international career ended prematurely after accusations about his behaviour and lack of focus, and he’s not risen above the French lower leagues.
02011: Winners – Burkina Faso
Bertrand Traore, Burkina Faso: Perhaps the player on this list who most firmly appears destined for stardom, Traore is coming to the end of a fine season on loan at Ajax after being loaned by Chelsea during the summer.
2013: Winners – Ivory Coast
Kelechi Iheanacho, Nigeria: He may have had a testing season with Manchester City, where he appears to have lost the faith of Pep Guardiola, but Iheanacho has already demonstrated that he is an effective and efficient frontman in the Premier League.
Just 20, he’s averaged a goal every 105 minutes of playing time in the top flight, and City’s loss would surely be another club’s gain!
The ‘New Drogba’ failed to make the grade at Tottenham Hotspur, and is currently re-establishing himself with Egyptian giants Al-Ahly following stints with Kilmarnock, Newport County and Peterborough United.
2015: Winners – Mali
Victor Osimhen, Nigeria: Perhaps the most exciting player in a tantalising generation of Nigerian talents, Osimhen won the Golden Boot, Silver Ball and Caf Young Player of the Year award after his performances in the 2015 U-17 World Cup.
He secured a move to Wolfsburg despite reported interest from the Premier League, and made his debut earlier this month in a 1-1 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach.
Kelechi Nwakali, Nigeria: The 18-year-old midfielder signed for Arsenal in 2016 on the back of his sublime performances at youth level, and was sent on loan to Dutch side MVV Maastricht to hone his craft.
Nwakali captained the Eaglets during their victorious 2015 U-17 World Cup campaign, and clinched the Golden Ball.
Could he be the nation’s next great superstar?