Eguavoen and Amuneke ; a match made in hell?

By Ihunanya okoye

Nigerians who clamoured for a Nigerian to coach the Super Eagles were thrilled when the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) announced former national team players, Austin Eguavoen and Emmanuel Amuneke as the interim Technical Adviser and Chief Coach/1st Assistant of the Nigeria male senior national team respectively.

Some Nigerians were equally sceptical about the appointments citing the tactical and technical prowess of the coaches especially Austin Eguavoen who they blamed for Super Eagles’ Round of 16 elimination at the 2021 AFCON.

However, there is a bit of concern over the pair’s compatibility in handling the Super Eagles team, judging by their achievements, pedigree and charisma as it concerns the round leather game.

In a chat with some soccer afficionados in one of my programmes on Radio, they briefly explained that Emmanuel Amuneke may not bring down his ego to work with Austin Eguavoen. They believe that factors such as Amuneke’s achievements as a footballer and coach might encroach in his job.

Lest we forget, Amuneke granted an interview to which was published on 29th November 2020. He was asked if he can work as an assistant to former coach, Gernot Rohr and he was quoted as saying that his profile has surpassed the role of an assistant coach.

“ Why should I be an assistant coach to anyone with my pedigree in the game. With what I have done in the industry either as a player or coach, I should be going higher than working under another coach”.

Emmanuel Amuneke, as a coach led the national U17 football team, the Golden Eaglets to win the World Cup in 2015. On 6 August 2018, he was appointed as coach of the Tanzania national football team. He rewarded his employers by picking one of the slots for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, which eluded Tanzania for years.

Austin Eguavoen on his part has not failed woefully in his coaching career over the years. He managed the Nigeria national team at the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, where the team won a bronze medal, beating Senegal in the third-place play-off. Eguavoen was head coach at Enyimba International in Aba in 2008–09 season , however he left soon after, leading them to a 3rd-place finish in league and winning the Federation Cup.

Interestingly, if given the opportunity, many Nigerians would have made their choice on who should be the leader amongst the two judging by their curriculum vitae but some Nigerian coaches who have seen it all in the profession hammered their views on togetherness.

Coach John Obuh who led the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria to a second place finish at the 2009 FIFA under 17 World Cup said the coaches can be successful together but pointed out that NFF got it right in choosing Austin Eguavoen as the leader of the team.

“ They can work as a team and get a good result.
Whatever is the challenge, one must endure to achieve a good result and Amunike is aware of that.
From the beginning, Eguavoen has always been at the top of Amuneke but fans and sports writers think otherwise.
I believe the appointment is not a mistake.”

Former Super Falcons coach, Uche Eucharia who led the Falcons to victory at the Africa Women Cup of Nations in 2010 bared her mind while equally narrating her ordeal when she faced a similar situation in the past.

“ National assignment is a call to serve the interest of the nation therefore national interest must be considered first before self interest. There is nothing wrong in asking a coaching who has coached the Super Eagles in the past to bring his experience to coach at the U 17 level if he is needed there.

“ Whoever is called to serve in any capacity as a head coach or assistant coach should be humble enough and carry out his/her duty with absolute loyalty and diligence putting first the interest of the nation at heart not ego . It is not a time to say I played better than this person or I am a better coach than this person. It is a call to serve the nation.

“ For Instance, during my time I coached players I played with in both club and national team. There was understanding and we had good time together.
In another occasion my colleague in the national team became my assistant coach.. I can tell you it was wonderful working with her. We had great fun until when the NFF decided to reshuffle the Falcons technical crew before World Cup. I was simply called and briefed about the decision . But some people alleged till today that I was the one who requested that NFF should remove my assistant saying that I did not want to work with her. A lie from the pit of hell and am happy The NFF can testify to this”.

“ So I do not see why Coach Eguavoen and Amuneke will not work successfully and happily together if the NFF decides to bring them together for the Super Eagles Job. In any capacity either of them is called to serve they should put self achievements aside first and put the nations interest first and work as experienced techical crew to churn out result.”

Former national team goalkeeper and coach, Alloy Agu thinks that both coaches can work harmoniously because their roles are defined.
“ It is all about professionalism. Their roles are defined and they all have the same goal or target which makes it easy.”

The views of the coaches have made it crystal clear that the fate of the Super Eagles team is in the hands of Eguavoen and Amuneke. The ball is now in their court; it is either they pull the team up or pull it down.

Time will definitely tell.

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