Football is a game for the young. This was the reply given by one of the Super Eagles officials when asked about the average age of his team. The Super Eagles have been named the youngest teams to have qualified for the 2018 world cup. So that’s what this post is about, no not the youngest teams, but the youngest players ever at the world cup.
The World cup which will be happening in three months’ time is the biggest soccer festival in the world. It unites people of various languages and cultures. Some players have been opportuned to play at this stage of football at a very young age. It takes a certain level of skill and talent to be able to achieve this feat. Some players have gone ahead to dazzle the world as they got older, and some have just disappeared from the face of the football world. We shall be seeing some of the youngest players ever to be at the festival of the beautiful game.
Pele (Brazil) 17 years, 7 months and 23 days.
Not many people know that his name is Edson Arantes Nascimento. In fact, I had to Wikipedia his name to find it out. The world knows him as Pele, and the world also knows him as one of the best players ever to grace the beautiful game. He was probably the best until the arrival of the wizards of our generations. Yeah, Messi and Ronaldo. Ever wondered what it would be like if Messi and C.Ronaldo ever played on the same team? That’s talk for another day though. So back to Pele, the former striker went ahead to win his debut world cup in 1958. And all together Pele will go to win two more world cups and end up becoming one of the most decorated players of his time.
Saloman Olembe (Cameroun) 17years, 6 months and 3 days.
The Cameroonian left winger had his world cup debut in France 98”, he was just 17 then. Olembe would go on to 63 more times for the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. He made his debut the in the 1 -1 draw against Austria, though he had already started playing for Cameroon from 1997. Olembe spent most of this time in the French league, the majority of his footballing time was spent at French League 1 club Marseille. He didn’t actually enjoy a very prosperous football career, and in 2010 he’ll retire completely from the sport.
Femi Opabunmi (Nigeria) 17 years, 3 months and 9 days.
Anyone who had followed age grade competitions in Nigeria during the late 90’s and early 2000s should remember this young man. He featured in Nigeria’s under -17 world cup team, scoring 6 goals in 6 matches. He’s the third youngest player ever to feature at the world cup. And he did that for Nigeria, in Korea-Japan 2002. It was in the Super Eagles the last match of that tournament, where they played 0 – 0 and the Vincent Enyeama will show he has enough talent to be the first choice goalkeeper for Super Eagles. Femi Opabunmi’s coming into the senior ranks will be short lived though. He’ll end up playing on three matches for the Super Eagles and by 2008 he’ll have retired from football due to a recurring eye problem. At the moment Femi Opabunmi is in Ibadan South-West Nigeria and he is blind.
Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon) 17 years, 3 months, and 7 days
African football will not be complete without the mention of this prolific striker. He’s the second Cameroonian on our list of youngest players ever at the world cup. He’s also the most decorated African player, having won the African player of the year four times. He’s also won almost every trophy at club level in Europe. His debut at the world cup was against Italy in the 1998 FIFA world cup, where Cameroon trashed Italy 3 – 0. The 37-year-old striker has played football at the highest level, even spending 5 years in Barcelona, where he had a first team shirt and scored 108 goals in 145 appearances. The striker plays at Konyaspor in Turkey.
Norman Whiteside (Northern Ireland) -17 years, 1 month and 10 days.
Whiteside made his debut for Northern Ireland in 1982 world cup which took place in Spain. He is the youngest player in history to feature for any country at the world cup. His debut was against Yugoslavia. After the world cup, Norman will continue his incredible form at Manchester United. It was his performance at Manchester that saw him earn a national team call-up in the first place. He’ll spend five seasons at Manchester United before leaving.
These are the 5 youngest players ever to at the world cup. Starting young doesn’t mean one will finish great, but again, it can have its advantages. In Russia this year, we shall be looking forward to seeing other young talents, and maybe one or two of them might just make this list.