|Coach Emmanuel Amunike|
In this era where Nigeria’s ex-players seek to make a bold statement in the coaching arena, it is essential to acknowledge and applaud the efforts of the orchestrator of the country’s latest success at junior level – Emmanuel Amunike.
A key member of 1991 All African Games team, Nigeria's best player at her maiden World Cup campaign in 1994 and African footballer of that year, and first Nigerian to feature for FC Barcelona of Spain, Emmanuel Amunike did not look the "coach" type. He was however, clearly a winner.
In his first start at the finals of the1994 Nations Cup, he scored two goals to win the trophy for Nigeria. Two years later, he also scored the goal that won Nigeria the Olympic Football Gold. In 2013, he assisted Garba Manu to win the U-17 World Cup, and led the Eaglets to retain the trophy for a record fifth title two years later.
Coach Amunike must be commended not just for winning the trophy, but also for the manner in which he did. He went about his work with total dedication, devoid of controversy. His evidently influenced the players' conduct, off and on the pitch. He exuded discipline, decorum, confidence and focus which rubbed off on his players off and on the pitch. His tactical acumen was very evident, as he made tactical choices and adjustments to his team where necessary per game, to produce the desired results as the team coasted to the title.
Take a bow, Coach Emmanuel Amunike.
And now, to the future...
Nigeria records a fifth success at Under-17 level and I hope this will be built on. It is hoped that Coach Amunike is retained to commence work immediately on building the next U-20 (Flying Eagles) team for the 2017 African and World Youth Championships.
The lessons of Coach Garba Manu's failure to strengthen his Flying Eagles team after the U-17 success should be learnt. The players must be kept in sync as much as possible and their individual progress monitored.
Consecutive World victories is no mean feat and longer term, it will be a monumental shame on the football bureaucracy if two consecutive world victories fail to yield a world class team in the next few years.