Sports minister, Sunday Dare, may have thrown his weight behind the choice of a local coach to take over the Super Eagles coaching job.
Speaking during TotalEnergies AFCON Trophy Tour in Lagos, yesterday, Dare spoke glowingly on the exploits of Nigerian ex-players, who led the Super Eagles to success in past editions of the competition.
“At the 1980 AFCON, a 16-year-old schoolboy, Henry Nwosu, was in the Nigerian squad. Alongside established stars like Best Ogedegbe, Segun Odegbami, Muda Lawal, Felix Owolabi, Christian Chukwu and others, and they delivered Nigeria’s first-ever AFCON title. The entire nation stood still for them.
“Many members of that squad became renowned coaches after their active playing days and made a huge impact in the game. The captain of that squad, Christian Chukwu would later be the assistant coach when Nigeria won the title for the second time in 1994, and the head coach in 2004 when the Super Eagles won the bronze. Interestingly, both tournaments were held in Tunisia.
“Another product of the 1980 squad was Kadiri Ikhana, who became the first coach to lead a Nigerian club side, Enyimba FC of Aba, to the most prestigious club trophy on the continent in 2003. Ikhana was voted the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Coach of the Year after his feat.
“In 1994, a golden generation of Nigerian players lived up to the hype and fulfilled their potentials by clinching the AFCON trophy in Tunisia. Led by their captain, Stephen Keshi (now late), arguably the biggest influence in Nigerian football ever, Keshi and company swept aside all the oppositions along their path to claim Africa’s biggest football prize. We cannot forget the roles played by superstars like Rashidi Yekini (of blessed memory), Emmanuel Amuneke, Sunday Oliseh, Peter Rufai and others in that squad.”
He continued: “Keshi would later lead the Super Eagles to Nigeria’s third AFCON title as head coach in 2013. He was the second man in history to win the tournament as a player and head coach after Egyptian legend Mohammed El Gohary.
“Keshi’s 1994 teammates – Austin Eguavoen, Samson Siasia and Sunday Oliseh have had their stints as Super Eagles head coaches at one time or the other. Some others like Daniel Amokachi, Finidi George, Emmanuel Amuneke, Nduka Ugbade and Mutiu Adepoju have also had successes as coaches with junior national teams and club sides in Nigeria. Mutiu Adepoju is currently an ambassador for the Spanish La Liga.
“Nigeria’s last triumph at the AFCON is so significant. Stephen Keshi, the chief coach and his assistant, Daniel Amokachi were 1994 AFCON winners, Sylvanus Okpala, one of the fitness coaches was a 1980 AFCON winner, while the goalkeeper coach, Ike Shorounmu was an AFCON silver medalist in 2000 and bronze medalist in 2002.
“I am looking forward to seeing that headline tomorrow. For us in Nigeria, the AFCON is an important tournament. Football is in our DNA. We eat, sleep and talk football all the time. We are football-loving people and we love our Super Eagles.
“Football is a unifier, the strong force that binds the spirits of all Nigerians together. Religious, cultural, ethnic and political differences and considerations take the back seat when the Super Eagles are playing. This explains our hope, excitement and optimism as we look forward to the kickoff of the 33rd edition of the tournament in less than 50 days,” Dare stated.
He commended TotalEnergies for its commitment to the development of sports in Nigeria, as well as its partnership with the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
“I am excited to see the AFCON trophy here. I have taken this photograph, and every morning, I will pray with it. My dream is to see the Super Eagles win our fourth AFCON trophy in Cameroon.”