23 December 2008

Nigeria: Amuneke Bags Berger Job

Lagos — About 17 years after ex-international, Emmanuel Amuneke left the local scene for greener pastures outside the country, the former African footballer winner is back home after the management of Julius Berger FC, offered him the plum job to turn around the dwindling fortune of the team.

Interestingly, Amuneke, who scored the winning goal that gave Nigeria a 3-2 win over Argentina in the final of Atlanta '96 Olympic football event, last played for the Berger side in 1991 before joining the exodus train of stars from the domestic scene. He signed for FC Zamalek of Egypt shortly after the All-Africa Games same year in Egypt where he had a brilliant exploit before moving to Europe.

Amuneke, who completed his coaching course two years ago in Spain, revealed in a telephone interview that his decision to take up the appointment was borne out of desire to always face challenges in life and he wants to use it as a stepping stone in his determination to excel at the coaching level, the same way he did while playing for the nation.

"It's a herculean task but I am equal to the task. I am used to this type of situation. The Berger management knows this, and that is why it has invited me to help re-focus the team and bring it back to winning ways and limelight. In the course of the negotiations, we were able to trash out the grey areas.

"Hopefully, I will assume official duties on the 28th of this month. I did not plan to start earlier because I want the players to enjoy their Yuletide celebrations.

"From my studies on the team, the players seem dispirited. So, my first job will be to change the mental attitude both on and off the pitch. From January, Nigerians will begin to see a different Julius Berger."

The former FC Barcelona forward, who has made several overtures to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to handle one of the national teams without success, said he decided to come home so that his qualities could be better appreciated.

"It is better to come back home and contribute one's quota to the development of football instead of being an armchair critic living abroad. It is still my desire to excel beyond club level football and move up to become a success at the national level.

"In my active footballing career, I started from a humble level, to blossom within a short period."

Julius Berger, who represented this country in both the Champions League and Winners Cup competitions in the past, were relegated from the Premier division three years ago and is yet to emerge from the lower cadre since then.

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