Former Nigerian international Mutiu Adepoju advises that young players must be left to play their game without labelling them next Messis or Jay-Jay Okochas of this world.
The ex-midfielder who played at three World Cups for the Nigeria Super Eagles scoring against Spain during the 1998 tournament in France believes indulging the new kids in comparisons with the greats is setting them up for failure.
“I believe calling young players in the youth teams as next Messi or Jay-Jay Okocha is unfair and unnecessary,” Adepoju told BBC Sport Africa.
“Indulging in this comparison is setting them up for failure because the weight of expectations will definitely affect these players mentally.”
Adepoju says that some of these players end up failing to work hard since they easily get carried away by what the press writes or talks about them.
“It’s the main reason some players refused to work hard and be themselves because they easily get carried away by what the press was writing about them.
“We just need to nurture these players properly and do away with the hype and noise. But if these players are allowed to play their own game and shine, they can be a success both at club and national team level.”
The 50-year old gave an example of former Super Eagles striker Victor Agali who was labelled as the next Rashid Yekini and despite him fight hard, people expected more from him.
“Victor Agali was widely regarded as the next Rashidi Yekini, but he fought extra hard to establish himself and sometimes people expected too much from him.”
Okocha, one of the most talented players ever from Africa also supported Adepoju’s claim.
“We should support these players and let them flourish on their own instead of unfairly putting them under pressure by calling them the next this or that,” said Okocha while on Lagos based Brila FM.
“I think people need to stop the obsession with that new Jay-Jay label because it’s unfair on these young players.”
Labelling of players as next who isn’t alien to Ugandan football as well – in 2012, Mike Mutebi then at Villa described Noah Ssemakula as the next David Obua and he recently labelled Sadat Anaku as the new Andrew Fimbo Mukasa.
Just this week, U-17 starlet Travis Mutyaba who inspired the Uganda Cubs to Afcon U-17 qualification has been labelled Messi by the media and fans alike.