The rise of Nimo
Manco, Lula and Fabio are just three of the many talented players hoping that the U-17 World Cup can give their careers a major and perhaps decisive boost. Alex Nimo shares their dream. Born 16 years ago in Liberia, he later fled to Ghana with his parents and younger brother to escape the turmoil of civil war. In 1999, the USA granted the family political asylum. The Nimos settled on the west coast and Alex joined F. C. Portland where he was spotted by Clive Charles, the former assistant coach of the USA U-23 team.
Last year, Alex received US citizenship and was immediately called up to the U-17 national team. A few months later, as a member of the side that took part in the U-17 World Cup qualifiers in Jamaica, he scored three goals and made a major contribution to the USA’s successful qualification for the finals in the Republic of Korea.
Another player with an African connection has made headlines with Germany. During the UEFA qualifying tournament in Belgium, Germany were trailing the Netherlands 2-1 in the play-off for fifth place when Richard Sukuta-Pasu came on a substitute. The striker with Congolese roots proceeded to score two goals to hand Germany a 3-2 victory and a place in the final competition.
Europe’s other representatives in Korea will be Spain, England, Belgium and 2001 U-17 world champions France. It is interesting to note that England, the birthplace of the modern game of football, will be making their first appearance in the U-17 World Cup, thanks to a run in the qualifying tournament that was not ended until a 1-0 defeat in the final at the hands of Spain.