Opabunmi, Stanley Okoro, Chrisantus and other U17 stars who failed to reach full potentials

Opabunmi, Stanley Okoro, Chrisantus and other U17 stars who failed to reach full potentials

It’s no longer news that Nigeria is one of the few African countries that have produced great players that went on to become excel in the round leather game.

Nigeria’s junior male team, the Golden Eaglets has produced some of the country’s finest footballers finest footballers like Wilson Oruma, Nwankwo Kanu, Celestine Babayaro, Mobi Oparaku, John Obi Mikel, Chinedu Obasi, Kenneth Omeruo, Ogenyi Onazi, Victor Osimhen, Kelechi Iheanacho, Samuel Chuckwueze, Francis Uzoho and so on.


However not all the players that showed promises in the colour of the national U-17 team that fulfilled their potential at later stage of their career.


Brila is taking a look at the players who have shown promises, but failed to lift up to expectations later in their career.



Opabunmi announced himself to the world in the 2001 FIFA U-17 World Cup hosted in Trinidad and Tobago where Nigeria finished as runner up.


Femi OPABUNMI (NIGERIA) during the 2002 FIFA World Cup match between Nigeria and England on June 12, 2002 in Nagai Stadium, Japan. (photo by Eric Renard / Onze / Icon Sport via Getty Images)

The Oyo State born left footed player was the arrow head of the team alongside Karimu Shuaibu and Victor Brown who was known for his super sub role.

Opabunmi’s goals helped Nigeria to reach the final and he won the silver shoe and the bronze ball at the end of the tournament.

After the tournament Opabunmi became the new golden boy of Nigerian football as top European clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Lyon made enquiry about him.

His talent caught the attention of then Super Eagles Coach Festus Onigbinde who included him in squad for the Korea/Japan World Cup in 2002 and he went on to become the third youngest footballer ever to play at the FIFA World Cup after Norman Whiteside and Samuel Eto’o.

However things started to fall apart for Opabunmi after joining Grasshoppers Zurich in Switzerland, where he was never given enough time to impress.

Opabunmi spent of most part of his time with the Club on treatment table, before he was allowed to join Chamois Niortais in France.

Opabunmi later returned to Nigeria Professional Football League side Shooting Stars FC in 2006 before his travails started.

In 2008 was said to be suffering from an eye defect, before it was announced that the winger is partially blind after a complicated surgical operation.

It was quite unfortunate that the world never see the best of Opabunmi who had the world at his feat.



The former Heartland of Owerri man became so popular among Nigeria football football fans due to his “‘little Messi’.

Stanley Okoro

ABUJA, NIGERIA – NOVEMBER 15: Stanley Okoro of Nigeria rues a missed chance during the FIFA U17 World Cup Final match between Switzerland and Nigeria at the Abuja National Stadium on November 15, 2009 in Abuja, Nigeria. (Photo by Jamie McDonald – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Okoro was part of the John Obuh’s squad for the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup hosted by Nigeria, and many expected him to lead the country to glory.

He failed to convinced many at the tournament, despite his growing fan base at home.

He was largely criticised for being too individualistic and playing to the gallery as the loss to the Switzerland in the final.

After the World Cup, Okoro secured a move to Almeria in Spain , but failed to shine in the few matches he played.

He was capped once by senior national team back in 2012 and failed to get a look in since after then.

Okoro faded out quickly as some believed he’s older than Lionel Messi but had falsified his age.



Emmanuel rose stardom during the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup which was hosted in his home country Nigeria.

Sani Emmanuel

LAGOS, NIGERIA – NOVEMBER 12: Sani Emmanuel of Nigeria scores his goal during the FIFA U17 World Cup Semi-Final 2 between Spain and Nigeria at the Teslim Balogun Stadium on November 12, 2009 in Lagos, Nigeria. (Photo by Jamie McDonald – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Emmanuel finished the tournament by winning the Golden Ball with 5 goals as he helped Nigeria to a runners-up finish behind Switzerland.

Following his success at the World Cup Emmanuel joined Swedish club Bodens BK after it was reported that Emmanuel had failed trial at both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspurs.

He later signed for Italian Serie A side S.S. Lazio where he was immediately put into their Primavera side, however he failed to make his mark and then quickly moved to a U.S. Salernitana 1919 of the Lega Pro Seconda Division.

Fast forward to October 2014 Emmanuel joined Israeli side Beitar Jerusalem, but only to be released 3 weeks later, after the coach said that he is not excited by Sani and that he does not feature in future plans.

Sani was released by Beitar Jerusalem, and proceed to Bosnia where he  had a trial with FK Sarajevo, but failed again.



Chrisantus famously represented Nigeria at under-17 level , and finished as the top scorer of 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Korea with seven goals.


He was awarded the adidas Silver Ball award after Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kross picked Golden Ball award.

After the world cup, he joined Hamburg of Germany, where he failed to live up to expectations.

Christantus’ time with Hamburg was blighted will reoccurring injury that kept him out for months.

Ever since his performance in 2007 and has never been considered good enough to represent the senior national.



Ibrahim is another member of the Nigerian under-17 winning team in the 2007 FIFA World Cup in South Korea, The player scored in the first match against France as the nation went on to win the competition.

Rabiu Ibrahim

SUEZ, EGYPT – OCTOBER 07: Rabiu Ibrahim #10 of Nigeria celebrates after scoring the 2:1 goal for his team during the FIFA U20 World Cup Round of 16 match between Germany and Nigeria at the Mubarak Stadium on October 7, 2009 in Suez, Egypt. (Photo by Shaun Botterill – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Before the tournament, he had been dubbed “the new Jay-Jay Okocha” and he was included by World Soccer in its 50 Most Exciting Teen Footballers list, and, in the following year, he was named in InsideFutbol.com’s article on young African footballers including Emmanuel Adebayor , Mario Balotelli and John Obi Mikel.  In January 2009, he appeared in Goal.com’s list of 10 African Players to Watch , and The Times ‘ Football’s Top 50 Rising Stars .

At aged 16 Ibrahim was included in the super Eagles squad by German coach Berti Vogts for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations , However, injury prevented him from participating in the tournament.

Ibrahim’s growth in the game was limited by injury as he was unable to stay fit and compete for a place in Sporting CP line up .

He laters joined Celtic, before moving to Kilmarnock both in the Scottish premier league , injury again won’t let him be .

Ibrahim’s talent in undeniable, and it’s so sad that he wasn’t able metamorphose into a great player.

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