By Pat Muo
Emmanuel Amuneke was known in his hay days as a bricklayer! Surprised? The brick layer is a builder, a foundation layer, and more importantly, a partaker in the entire building process.
As Super Eagles’ left winger in the Nigerian team which pasted its name in the World Cup, Amuneke stamped his name in the minds of Nigerians as a workaholic in 1994.
Prior to qualification by the Super Eagles to USA’94, Nigeria’s first ever world cup appearance, Amuneke had carved himself out as a dependable player in the team.
When he finally advanced into coaching, the Ngor-Okpala man took this exceptional character into coaching. Today, players of Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets, defenders of Nigeria’s cup victory two years ago in the U-17 category in the United Arab Emirates, are exhibiting Amuneke’s character.
Winning their first game 2-0 against a resilient United States of America U-17 squad, on the opening day of the tournament October 17, the Eaglets resented a planned home dominant advantage by host nation Chile last week to drub the Chileans 5- 1 in front of their citizens.
The most outstanding part of the Golden Eaglets / Chile match was the body language exhibited by the Nigerian players during pre-match formalities on match day. While the Chileans and their home supporters were firing up the scene before the match commenced, the Golden Eaglets were not perturbed. It was as if they were not going to be part of the events of that evening. They merely concentrated on their usual routine which included warm-up activities before a match and offering of prayers to God for a good game.
All around them, the Chilean crowd was truly vociferous, generating various chants which were meant to depress and intimidate the Eaglets.
But that was all there was to Chile and her team. Infact, it took the Eaglets only 30 seconds to shut the entire Chilean nation up with an opening goal that took the match to a 5-1 win for Nigeria.
Amuneke has truly arrived. Now is the time for Nigeria to once more, exploit the amazing football qualities of this young man. Nigerians saw it in the run-off to that 5-1 victory over Chile:
“I told our players to make things uncomfortable for them,” he said of the Chilean opposition. “I told them to force the Chileans out of their style. It is true we were effective upfront, but we also knew how to block their passes, forcing them to play uncomfortably in the midfield.”
“My players understood the transition game. That is, when to attack and when to defend. Above all, we also prepared them mentally. It is not easy to play against the host. Chile has a good team. I believe they can qualify for the next round.