- Why they say so…
- Whathappened in the beginning…
- Andthe player that Amuneke thought would be as huge as Chukwueze and Osimehn but is yet to shine…
Even the bees and ants of the earth have ears large enough to hear the loud echoes of the African name Victor Osimehn. A year that has been characterized by global pandemic and a conditioned pause and restart of footballing activities would eventually accommodate a huge news for the former lille player.
Victor Osimhen became a Napoli player and Africa’s most expensive player but this is only a reality because he was selected to represent Nigeria in 2015 at the U-17 World Cup.
That meant he had to pass through the leadership of one of Africa’s iconic legends — Emmanuel Ammuneke.
Ediale Kingsley had a chat with the man that coached the Nigeria national U17 football team to win the World Cup in 2015.
“One thing about Victor is he is a player that likes to win. That wants to play. He doesnt like losing. He is always ready for challenges. I knew he was going to make it. The issue now is people around him. What kind of direction, what kind of advice are they given him. Because football in Africa, when everything is going well for you, everybody is your friend” said Amuneke.
Naturally, it is possible that Amuneke who had to screen over 2 million football youngsters across Nigeria in order to have a team could have doubted the potentials of Osimehn or completely skipped him due to oversight or other factors that came along with the burden of selection and choice.
But Amuneke explains himself better, “No, when I finally discovered Osimhen, I never doubted him. For the screening we had over 2million players. And the exam we did in school, the first thing they ask is organisation. So we had to organize the numbers into sets, and that meant we needed to see all of them play from 9am to 5pm. Under the sun. And everybody came from all the parts of the nation. And they all must get equal opportunity.
“So what happened with Osimhen’s screening was after setting up their team and seeing them for 15mins. I started setting up another team while they continued playing. After which I picked some players and really didn’t get to notice Osimehn initially until my assistants pointed him out. Of course at that stage it wasn’t about the physicality yet.
“It was about the player’s intelligence and how he controls the ball. The tactical, pschological and physical aspect was for a later date. Something we could help develop as we build the team. However, my assistants dropped in words so I reviewed Osimehn again. It was not as if he was really fantastic but we could see the hunger and desire in him”.
It was not just Osimehn that became the stars of that set of national players. And there were other talents that Amuneke had high hopes in players like Funsho Bamgboye who hasn’t really gained same explosive fame as Osimhen or Chukwueze.
”We still need to follow up on all of them. Like my player, Funsho Bamgboye, I was just thinking recently, last month, I was wondering what is wrong with him, I had to call him. He didn’t pick at first. Then I sent him some messages which he later replied in two weeks time with a call. He informed me that he left the club he was for another club. I enquired about his well being and encouraged him to work harder”
After the 2017 World Cup, Funsho was picked by the Hungarian club Szombathelyi Haladás. But last year he joined Fehérvár.
So this reporter wanted to also know the amount of follow up Amuneke invested In Victor Osimehn. And the question was asked, when was the last time you spoke with Victor?”
‘Well it has been long…I dont have his contacts. I think the last time I spoke with Osimhen, if I am not mistaken is 2018, then I was in spain and he was in Wolfsberg. I spoke and encouraged him. That was the last time we spoke. And like I said I wish them well. It’s onlg Chukwueze that I communicate with most of the time. He sends me messages, I reply. Where I need to chip in advice I do. However I wish all of them success and thats the most important thing. And my prayer is to see them go beyond what we have done as players”.
In an interview with Edafe Eseoghene’s Elegbete TV, Victor said he felt he was disliked by Amuneke. And even though in the same chat with Edafe he said he later got to understand the Coach’s toughness was for his good. It was still important to ask Amuneke about this.
“Like I said I never doubted or hated him. Same thing with Kelechi Nwankali he too will always say I hate him, that ‘coach doesn’t like me’ but it’s not so. It’s just that there’s something the coach has seen in you that he is trying to develop.
“Kelechi Nwankali, I have said it a lot of the time, is a fantastic player, from my days as a player, there hasn’t been any midfielder in the National Team that has vision like he has. But without the ball, he is lazy, he is not aggressive without the ball. So we had to work on that because football is about what you do with and without the ball. Not just about how many times you pass the ball. So most of these players initially wont understand why you are tough on them”.
“like Victor the first time he came to the national team, he had the desire, he was aggressive and all that. But there are other factors, and other things we had to teach him. We told him young man, hey, this is national team, this is how you have to behave, you are a model to those one at home looking up to you. It wasn’t easy. Because he felt Coach didn’t like him but at the end of the day they realized the essence of everything”.
Amuneke played for Zamalek, Sporting CP, Barcelona, and Albacete.
He was part of the team that participated at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States, scoring against Bulgaria and Italy.
Aso in that year, he helped the Super Eagles win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia, eventually being voted African Footballer of the Year. Additionally, Amuneke played all the games at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, scoring the winning goal in the final as the national team won the gold medal.