Two of the African continent’s most gifted youngsters will be involved when the Black Stars trade tackles with the Super Eagles twice within four days
In Akinkunmi Ayobami Amoo and Issahaku Abdul Fatawu, Nigeria and Ghana have named their two most talented teenagers in the squads preparing to battle for a spot at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year.
With the stake so high and the hopes of millions of people on the line, it is unlikely that Amoo and Fatawu will enjoy much playing time during the two-legged playoffs between these two eternal rivals.
But which of these two prodigiously gifted youngsters is further ahead in his development?
After a couple of years navigating the murky waters of academy football in Nigeria, Amoo made his big break when he was included in the Golden Eaglets squad to the 2019 Africa U-17 Nations Cup in Tanzania.
Wisdom Ubani and Olakunle Olusegun were the stars of that team, but Amoo made enough splash to attract attention despite the Eaglets only finishing fourth at the tournament.
The Golden Eaglets did not fare any better at the U-17 World Cup later that year, getting knocked out at the round of 16. But Amoo established himself as the biggest name in the team, and it was not surprising that he moved to Europe the following year.
At 19, Amoo only recently received his first call-up to the national team, and with the abundance of talent in the Eagles, it is unlikely that Nigerian fans will see him make his full debut this weekend.
Fatawu, however, has made a more significant impact for Ghana. Aged just 17, Fatawu won the Best Player of the Tournament as the Black Starlet won the 2021 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations in Mauritania.
With Amoo absent as Nigeria did not qualify, Fatawu stole the show with his two beautiful goals at the group stage of the competition, a collector’s piece.
The 18-year-old was quickly drafted into the national team, and he has already made six appearances for the Black Stars. It would not shock anyone to see him feature at some point against the Super Eagles, with Ghana presently short on quality attackers.
Fatawu spent the last two years excelling in the Ghana Premier League for Dream FC and Steadfast FC. But in February, he switched to Europe when he joined Sporting Lisbon U-23 in the Liga Revelação.
It is not the big-money move many tipped the talented youngster to make, but it could be an excellent first step towards adapting to the European setting before progressing to greater heights.
Amoo has had little trouble adapting to the rigours of European football, though.
The Ibadan-born kid-wonder arrived in Sweden in June 2020 to team up with Hammarby and quickly established himself as one of the country’s most promising teenagers.
2021 was Amoo’s best year, with the Brightville Academy product winning the Svenska Cupen and appearing in all of Hammarby’s UEFA Europa Conference League qualifying games before they were eliminated by Swiss giants Basel.
Both Amoo and Fatawu are predominantly left-footed wingers who thrive even when deployed as attacking midfielders.
Fatawu strikes the ball with venom and has scored quite a few goals from distance, usually catching the goalkeeper unaware.
Amoo is no slouch in front of goal either, his 13 goals and six assists in 48 games for Hammarby bearing testament to his ability to stick the ball into the back of the net. He scored on his full debut for Copenhagen at the weekend.
You are, however, more likely to see him using his pace, ball control, and technical ability to dribble past opponents – one of the reasons some refer to him as “little Messi”.
According to Transfermarkt, Abdul Fatawu is presently valued at €500,000, which is not a terrible thing for an African teenager taking his first step into the European football circuit.
When Amoo made a similar leap almost two years ago, he was not even valued at half that.
But the Nigerian midfielder’s market estimation is presently pegged at €4 million, with his switch to Copenhagen a record-breaking transfer for Hammarby.
A talented footballer with an unpredictable ceiling, Fatawu would be looking to make his seventh appearance for the Black Stars on Friday.
But there is no doubt that the better youngster is Amoo, who may only make his debut from the bench when the Super Eagles have established a healthy lead in Kumasi.
Overall winner – Akinkunmi Amoo