Filed in Sports by on February 6, 2010

Quota system ruined us at Chile ’87 –Nieketien
By ’Tana Aiyejina, Published: Saturday, 6 Feb 2010

Nieketien during his playing days in Malaysia
The story of Chile ‘87 FIFA U-20 World Cup is still very fresh in the memories of football-

following Nigerians; even though it still leaves a sour taste behind.

That was the year one of Nigeria‘s best assembled Flying Eagles team posted a dismal performance- the country‘s worst till date- at the biennial championship.

With an avalanche of players that included the likes of Etim Esin, who was even nicknamed the Black Maradona, 1985 U-17 World Cup winners Jonathan Akpoborie, Victor Igbinoba and keeper Lucky Agbonsevbafe, Thompson Oliha, Lawrence Ukaegbu, John Ene Okon, Adeolu Adekola, Peter Nieketien, Ikponwosa Omoregie, captain Williams Okpara, expectations were high of a memorable outing in the South American country after the team, under the tutelage of Chris Udemezue, had a fantastic run during the African qualifiers.

Several reasons have been given for the U-20 side‘s poor showing in Chile, the major one being the gunshot wounds sustained by the side‘s most talented player Esin and indiscipline in camp.

But 23 years later, team striker, Nieketien, revealed that the causes of their failure were far more than the reasons cited above.

The former Iwuanyanwu Nationale forward, who went on to play professional football in Gabon for AS Douanes (1989) ASMO FC (1990) and Delta FC (1991) before moving to Malaysia where he played for Kedah FC (92/93) and Terengganu (94/95) and then on to Germany where he ended his playing career, insisted that despite their miserable display, the team still remained one of Nigeria‘s best at the junior level. He played for SG Bad Soden in Germany between 1996 and 1997.

”Our team is still the best assembled squad in Nigeria; we were just unlucky to have such a poor outing at the tournament proper.

”Its true Etim‘s case affected the team somehow but the issue of quota system in the team didn‘t help matters. There were players dropped then who should have made the team. Instead others who did not deserve a place in the team were considered due to one factor or the other,” the former Berger player said.

While other squad players like Oliha, Etim, Nduka Ugbade and others went on to make their names at senior level for Nigeria, Nieketien‘s international career at senior level didn‘t last long but he argued that it was not for lack of talent on his side.

He said, ”I was the only player from the Chile squad that made the Green Eagles to the 1988 African Nations Cup in Morocco.”

Nieketien may not have made waves at senior international level, but he won almost everything on the local scene with Iwuanyanwu Nationale before proceeding abroad.

In 1988, he won the league and FA Cup double with the Owerri giants and emerged runners-up of the Africa Champions Cup.

After winning the first leg 1-0 in Ibadan, Nieketien and his teammates crumbled like a pack of cards in the return leg losing 4-0 in Constantine, Algeria against Entente Setif.

In 1989, they won the league but lost the FA Cup to BCC Lions of Gboko, courtesy of Aham Nwankwo‘s lone strike.

In Malaysia, he was a household name as he terrorised defenders in the Asian country. He helped Kedah FA gain promotion in 1993 in his first season with them and then went on to win the the Liga Perdana, as the Malaysian league is known and the Malaysian Cup in 1993.

Nieketien says he is fulfilled as an ex-footballer despite not playing in the lucrative and glamorous leagues of Europe.

”Definitely, I‘m proud of my achievements. I did very well everywhere I played. I played for my country at junior and senior levels. What else can I ask for?”

Presently, Nieketien has begun a coaching career and hopes to make a name very soon as a top football manager.

”At the moment I‘m in London. I‘ve completed my coaching licence and I‘m a qualified UEFA B licence coach. I‘m doing youth development coaching in my community.

”I‘m just hoping to get the opportunity to come back home and show the stuff I am made of,” he said.

Nieketien started playing football at a very young age and began with Lagos club Mandilas Lions, before moving to LUTHCOL FC and then on to ACB FC and Julius Berger FC, all also in Lagos.

But he regrets the poor state of the local league and the general state of our football today.

”We need to go back to grassroots football to scout for talents. We also need to start youth development programs to build up talents from the scratch. We need a lot of sponsors to drive the league. When we played, the stadia were always filled and the fans went home happy after every match.”

For someone who believes in grassroots development, he has already started his coaching at that level both in Nigeria and the United Kingdom.


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