The story of Victor Moses, Super Eagles’ winger, which went viral on foreign and local media as well as on the internet and social media platforms during the just concluded African Cup of Nations in South Africa, drew applause from Nigerians who saluted the young man’s courage to play for the national team despite his horrible experience early in life.
Leaving home to play football on the streets of Kaduna, Victor Moses returned home to see all his parents had laboured for razed down during the Miss World riots in 2002. His parents were murdered while hundreds of people were killed and injured. His uncle took him to London almost immediately after the incident, but his passion for football never died.
Moses always wanted to be a professional footballer. He attended Stanley Technical High School (now known as the Harris Academy) in South Norwood. During this time, he was scouted playing football in the local Tandridge League where scouts from Crystal Palace approached him, with the club’s Selhurst Park stadium just streets away from his school. The scouts were so impressed that he was offered a place in the Eagles’ academy, which he accepted.
Shortly after Moses joined their academy, Palace recommended him to the fee-paying Whitgift School in Croydon where former Arsenal and Chelsea star Colin Pates had been coaching the school football team, in the hope that the higher quality coaching and facilities at Whitgift would further improve his development as a player.
He was a prodigy, utterly prolific in front of goal. He led the Whitgift under-14 team to the FA Youth Cup in 2005; they beat Grimsby school 5-0 in the final, with Moses scoring all five. He made his Palace debut at 16 and was called up by England at every youth level. He won the Golden Boot at the European Under-17 Championship in 2007, in which England lost to Spain in the final, but his momentum was checked at Under-21 level.
Stuart Pearce fielded him only once, against Uzbekistan in 2010, and the manager substituted him at half-time and was not called up for the next game. When he felt full international opportunity would knock, he declared to play for Nigeria, which thrilled fans across Africa where the Premier League is revered.
Few weeks ago, Victor Moses became part of the third Nigerian team to win the African Cup of Nations – Nigeria’s first continental victory since 1994. Moses was named to the team of the tournament alongside four other Nigerians, also receiving the tournament award for “Best Fair Play Player”.
From the above, it is our belief that Moses’ success, to a large extent, is traceable to his exposure to the football academy. And there are many Moseses out there. As such, we suggest that well-funded and managed sports academies and fee-paying schools centred on sports development be established in the country. Apart from their ability to nurture young talents, these academies could help in curbing crime among Nigerian youths as these youths become meaningfully and gainfully engaged.