The former Barcelona star has had several beautiful moments in the game since bursting to prominence in the early nineties, but one failed adventure continues to thaw at his heart
Former Golden Eaglets coach Emmanuel Amuneke says his failure to guide the Nigerian national U-20 team to the African youth championship in 2015 is the lowest point for him both as a player and a coach.
An incredible playing career saw the former Super Eagles star win laurels at Egyptian side Zamalek, Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon, and Spanish giants Barcelona.
Amuneke was also one of the most beloved members of Nigeria’s golden generation, which qualified the country for the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 1994 after winning that year’s Africa Cup of Nations trophy.
The one-time flying winger was also a prominent member of the Dream Team squad that claimed a first and only Olympic football gold medal for Nigeria two years later.
Amuneke’s good fortunes followed him into coaching as he earned two U-17 World Cup-winning medals, first as an assistant coach in 2013 and again as the head coach a couple of years later.
But luck ran out on the soft-spoken coach in 2016 when his Flying Eagles side failed to make it to the U-20 AFCON after losing out 5-5 on aggregate to Sudan.
Amuneke’s boys secured an excellent 2-1 win in Khartoum in the African U-20 Championship qualifier only to fall 4-3 to the same opponents two weeks later in Lagos.
That damning failure still hurts the former Barcelona winger.
“My worst moment was not qualifying the U-20 team for the Africa U-20 championship when I was in charge of the team,” Amuneke told the Punch.
“Though we learn from all those moments and experiences and move ahead because that’s part of what we do.”
The good times returned shortly for the Spain-based tactician who later led Tanzania to qualify for the 2019 AFCON in Egypt, several decades after they last made it to the tournament proper.