A major standout achievement in less than one year of the inauguration of the Board of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) has been in organising of the NPFL Youth League. 

Beyond successfully setting up the league in conjunction with the 20 member clubs, some products of the league have gone ahead to join the senior teams of their clubs while four were picked to represent Nigeria in the WAFU U-17 tournament held in Ghana  

The trio of Remo Stars U-17 team, Oreoluwa Agbenia, Muiz Oladimeji and Daniel Arierhi were invited alongside Rangers goalkeeper, Chinedu Chike by Coach Manu Garba to the team that failed to pick one of the zonal tickets for the 2024 AFCON U-17. 

At the end of the NPFL U-17 Youth League which held from February 24 to March 3 this year in Benin City after the zonal qualifiers in Port Harcourt, Ado Ekiti, Enugu, Lafia and Kaduna, Rivers United Youth team emerged the champions. Some of the players who participated in the tournament went ahead to star for their senior teams in the 2023/24 NPFL season which ended on June 23. This report by the NPFL Media takes a look at some of those players. 

In Akure, teenage sensation, Chinedu Nwosu, popularly called Nedu made waves with Sunshine Stars after Coach Kennedy Boboye gave him his first runout for the senior team on Matchday 35. The 17 year old pacey forward provided two assists in the defeat of Kano Pillars and Remo Stars would be holding him responsible for blunting their title push when on Matchday 37, he came in again as a substitute to net twice in Sunshine Stars triumph in the Southwest Derby. Nedu is a star on the rise. 

The league’s runners-up, Remo Stars had three of their Youth League players moved up to the senior team.  Centre back, Ahmed Akinyele made 28 appearances and netted five goals. Stanley Joseph, a right wing back played in 31 of Remo Stars games and had two goals to his name while Olisa Emmanuel sat out all the season as a senior team player. 

There was little or no surprises when Rivers United Coach, Evans Ogenyi named the competitions lead scorer, Seiyefa Jackson in the senior team’s matchday squad against Sporting Lagos on May 26 and scoring seven minutes after his introduction as a substitute. Seiyefa would go on to play four more games for the former Nigerian champions. 

Ogenyi demonstrated more faith in the youth players as four others who played alongside Seiyefa in the NPFL U-17 Youth League were also drafted into the senior squad. 

In Rivers United match against Gombe United, U-17 Youth League Champions who made the cut included Kingdom Confidence, Ochobi Elias, Paul Junior, Oscar Ozornwanfor James and Seiyefa. 

Nnamdi Igwillo, the Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the Enugu zonal qualifiers on Monday, July 1 put pen to paper for a professional contract with Rangers International, the NPFL champions. Before him, another graduate of the club’s youth team, Kenneth Igboke not only made it to the squad that clinched Rangers 8th NPFL title, he got called up for the Super Eagles World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin Republic. 

At Akwa United, two members of the Youth team, Nsikak Alloysius, a left back and offensive midfielder, Itoro Bassey were promoted to the senior team and made a number of appearances for the club in their successful fight to avoid relegation. 

Taking stock of the accomplishment of the maiden edition of the Youth League, the NPFL Chairman, Hon Gbenga Elegbeleye could not conceal his elation at how fast dividends accrued from what initially could have been considered an experiment. 

“We have obviously met one of the cardinal objectives for initiating the Youth League for our Clubs in the NPFL, which is to assist the Football Federation and their Coaches scout for talents”, the NPFL Chairman told www.npfl.com.ng  

This is verifiable as the national U-17 team selected four players from the league and there are a number of upgrades to senior club squads across the NPFL.  

Still speaking on the idea behind the Youth League, Elegbeleye submitted, “the Youth League is a requirement of the NFF Club Licensing Regulations and the benefits are many, including providing the clubs a steady and ready replacement of ageing players and those who move away to ther clubs”. 

Plans are afoot to organise camping for select members of the Youth League who would take part in some international youth tournaments in Africa and Europe.  

Elegbeleye explained that the camping and tournament participation is to further improve the players for their club career development. 

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