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Nigerian Football

All hope not lost on Golden Eaglets, Amuneke counsels NFF

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Emmanuel Amuneke as Golden Eaglets' coach in 2015.

The Nigeria U-17 team,Golden Eaglets may have failed to make the cut in the qualification for the next FIFA U-17 World Cup, a former coach of the team and also a former international and assistant coach to the Super Eagles has advised against throwing the baby and bathwater away.

In an interview with a leading Nigerian newspaper, ThisDay, Amuneke pointed to the essence of age-graded competition, saying that it is essentially, a developmental project and not necessarily meant to win trophies.

Amuneke, who first made his mark as an U-23 player for Nigeria in 1991 and was part of the coaching crew to the 2013 World Cup winning team of the Golden Eaglets, was the coach that handled the winning squad of 2015.

In his squad were the likes of Samuel Chukwueze and Victor Osimhen who are now household names in European fields.

According to Amuneke, whose twin strikes won Nigeria the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and the gold medal at the Atlanta ‘96 Olympic Games, the current squad of Golden Eaglets should be applauded and encouraged.

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“The young lads did their best but were unlucky not to get the desired result”, remarked the 1994 African Footballer of the Year.

“We must collectively salute the players and the coaching crew for doing a good job but were unfortunate not to qualify for the finals.

“We cannot afford to let them go just like that because we must erase the tag failure in their history which has been a tradition any time our age-group team failed to win at major events.

“The players are disappointed in themselves knowing fully well that it was an opportunity to launch their career on the big stage and suddenly vanished due to ill luck.

“I can see them doing well if we make conscious effort to integrate them in the domestic league at lower cadre instead of allowing them to vanish into thin air,” he remarked.

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Amuneke noted that in 2003 squad toU-17 World Cup in Finland did not go beyond Group phase but the likes of John Obi Mikel, Chinedu Obasi, Isaac Promise and Ambruse Vanzekin were able to reach the Olympics and Super Eagles level.

“We must engage ourselves in a long-term programme that will ensure the boys are injected into the domestic league clubs and as well as take cognisant of their educational growth which a global standard today aside footballing programme.

“As for the coaching crew, it’s unfortunate what as happened to them but as for me, they did their best.

“It takes a good coach (Ugbade) to be patient with the players for making simple errors which was natural of players of that age.

“I was once in same situation and you have to keep lecturing, develop and ensure proper growth unfortunately as a coach someone must pay the price because Players’ Agents will infiltrate the camp and for obvious reason and when the final selection did not go their way, all they wish is for the team to fail but a good coach should just stay focused and damn the consequence.

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“At any given time, our system is warped towards immediate results instead of long-term planning and as a coach you make friends and enemy as same time but what is important is to stick to the plans,” he pointed out in a telephone interview.

He also recalled his experience as the coach of U-20 team that failed to qualify for the AFCON tournament after defeat to Niger 5-6 on goals aggregate even when his team had the honour to play the final leg at home.

“Aside the core group of boys that won the 2015 tournament in Ecuador, some of the players that did not make the final selection into the tournament from our Calabar camp were invited unfortunately the result did not go our way on a wet evening at Teslim Balogun Stadium.

“I watched the players wept openly in the dressing room and took time to console with them because it was a great opportunity to elevate their career but today I am happy that the likes of Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze, Kelechi Nwakali and many others in that squad moved beyond that stage today,” he recalled.

In Nigeria, the age-grated competition are often seen as a must win project. Failure is an aberration and the coaching crew and and the players often pay the price as the objective is always to win and win.

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In  January1985, the Nigeria Flying Eagles defeated Cameroon 5-1 in Lagos to pick the ticket for the then U-21 World Youth Championship in the Soviet Union.

Only Samson Siasia made it at the Super Eagles’ level. The others literally fizzled out at the youth level. But the players of the defeated Cameroon side made it big, years later, forming the bulk of the record-setting Indomitable Lions at the Italia’90 World Cup.

France under coach Jean-François Jodar won the U-17 World Cup in 2001, beating Nigeria. The coach had been on the saddle from 1987  and did not qualify France for the FIFA U-16/17 tournament till 2001.

He was left on the saddle as his performance was not calculated on the number of trophies won, but on the number of talents he was able to churn out for the national team.

It was reported that the bulk of French players that won the 1998 World Cup passed through Jean-François Jodar.

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Nigerian Football

ENENE ADAMS: Club activities on hold at Remo Stars

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Continental title aspirants, Remo Stars of Ikenne have suspended activities at the club as a sign of respect to Hon. Ekene Adams who passed on early this Tuesday morning.

The departed was the club’s former General Manager before venturing into politics in 2023. He won election into the Nigeria Federal House of Representatives and became the Chairman of the House Committee on Sports.

Remo Stars in their official X- handle announced: “With deep regret, we announce the death of the club’s former General Manager, Hon. Ekene Adams.

“Ekene was a pillar of our club. His dedication and passion for the beautiful game will never be forgotten. All club activities are hereby put on hold until further notice.”

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Nigerian Football

NFF  mourns over Ekene Adams 

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Gusau (right) with the mother of the late Hon. Ekene Adams.

The Nigeria Football Federation has expressed utmost sorrow and grief over the demise on Tuesday, 16th July 2024, of the Chairman of House of Representatives’ Committee on Youth and Sports, Hon. Ekene Abubakar Adams.

Adams reportedly passed on in the early hours of the day after prolonged illness.

President of NFF, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau, in a letter he personally signed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, extolled the virtues of the late Hon. Adams, saying the deceased was “the leader of a very important committee in the House of Representatives and a man who was very much alive to his duties, tasks, assignments, obligations and responsibilities.

“As someone who has worked in football all his life, contributing his quota to the development of the game on the domestic front, Hon Ekene Abubakar Adams was well-known to the entire football fraternity, and it was no surprise that he was very keen on further development of the game of football in the country while he served as Chairman of the House Committee on Youth and Sports Development.

“From serving and excelling as General Manager of Kada Stars Football Club of Kaduna to serving and accomplishing great things as General Manager of Remo Stars Football Club of Ikenne, to his glorious political sojourn that ended with Chairmanship of one of the most important committees in Nigeria’s Parliament, the late Hon. Adams surely left his bold and indelible footprints in the sands of time, and departed with a legacy of distinguished service to the football industry and to the country’s legislative chambers.

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“We all loved him, but God Almighty loves him much more. Rather than be thrown into dejection and sorrow, we must endeavour to celebrate Hon. Adams’ fruitful and fulfilled existence here on planet Earth.”

Gusau thereafter paid a condolence visit to the house of the late Hon. Adams, where he met with his mother and wife.

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Nigerian Football

Nigeria battles with Egypt over signing of Hervé Renard

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Terrible Hervé Renard Blow For Cote D’Ivoire -

Nigeria’s search for a coach ahead of the start of the qualifying duels for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations has been narrowed to two-time winner, Hervé Renard, the Frenchman who guided Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire to victories in 2012 ans 2015 respectively.

 The Frenchman was in charge of Saudi Arabia in their sensational 2-1 defeat of Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

He is at the moment the head coach of the French Women’s team featuring at the Olympics but intends to step down at the end of the Games next month.

That confirms his availability. But it comes at a huge cost. Sources informed the Sports Village Square that the Nigeria Football Federation has tabled an offer of 2 million euros to the coach believed to have the necessary skill to handle teams from Africa owing to his experience.

  But the NFF is not alone. The Nigerian officials face stiff competition from Egypt who are also interested in Hervé Renard.

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The Egyptian FA tabled a salary offer of 1.9 million euros.

Egypt sacked their coach, Rui Vitoria after the last AFCON in Cote d’ivoire while Hossam Hassan is signed as an interim manager.

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