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My relationship with Abacha …U-23 Coach, Daniel Amokachi, reveals how he came across • former Nigerian iron-man, the late General Sani Abacha

Posted by SunnNews Online on 2006/10/18 | Views: 1347 |

My relationship with Abacha …U-23 Coach, Daniel Amokachi, reveals how he came across • former Nigerian iron-man, the late General Sani Abacha


No matter how dirty the image of former Nigeria’s leader Sani Abacha was, still, after his death, Daniel Amokachi, Under-23 national coach, is not ready to deny that there was an umbilical cord linking him to the late military dictator’s family.

No matter how dirty the image of former Nigeria’s leader Sani Abacha was, still, after his death, Daniel Amokachi, Under-23 national coach, is not ready to deny that there was an umbilical cord linking him to the late military dictator’s family.

For those who may not know, Amokachi, at the weekend, sensationally revealed how he came across the late head of State from childhood, when his father and uncle were actively involved in the military.

"When people see you in limelight, they seem to forget where you come from. My dad was once a soldier, so also my uncle. My uncle was actually an aide-de-camp (ADC), to the late Abacha and so, this brought us together as one family. I had a good relationship with the Abacha family till my adult age. I’m like a son to him. I respect that family a lot, and they also reciprocate this. Football or no football, I’ll still maintain my relationship with the Abacha family because I knew them before my involvement in football.

"Football-wise I was doing my very best on the pitch, especially for my country. In my playing days, I used to feature for my country the same way I did for my club. I should be the only player in green and white colours who was playing with determination," Amokachi told a cable television, SuperSport.

THE NATIONAL TEAM

Amokachi started his football career from a ghetto in Kaduna and he never thought of playing in the elite circle before a Dutch coach, Clemence Westerhof, came for his services.

"I started my football from the streets of Kaduna. I played for a club called ‘Eleven Planners’ at the age of five. I was also in school, and it was during this time that Ranchers Bees officials saw me and I started playing for them at 14. They drafted me into their main team and I played my first league game at the age of 15.

"I was invited into the national team before 16. I had my first international cap before I was 16, in 1989. I remember when coach Westerhof came to the stadium to watch Ranchers Bees against Asec Mimosas of Cote d’Ivoire in the WAFU Cup final. I had a wonderful game in that match, as we won 3–1 and I scored two of the goals for Ranchers.

"Shortly after the game, somebody came to me and told me a white coach would like to see me, and I went straight to Westerhof. During our discussions, he said he would like me to play for Eagles since junior teams are not having any competition. He said his plan was for the 1994 FIFA World Cup and, by then, I would have turned 22 and so, he would need me. During that time, there was no money in football, we just played for the fun and excitement in it."

And so, Westerhof brought the talented player to the 1990 African Nations Cup, and sold him to Club Brugge in Belgium. He performed well in Belgium and at the 1994 World Cup. Then Everton, a Premiership club, came for Amokachi and bought him for £3,000,000 ($4,700,000).

He went on to win the FA Cup with Everton in 1995, famously scoring two goals in the semi-final. He appeared in the final only briefly, late on, as a substitute but is remembered fondly for his beret wearing celebrations.

He stayed at Everton until 1996, never really making the impact hoped, and was sold to Besiktas for £1,750,000.

Amokachi sustained an injury, just ahead of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, played one game, but struggled with knee problems, thereafter. After leaving Besiktas in 1999, his playing career, more or less, ended. He signed with 1860 Munich, but the contract was cancelled after he failed a medical test. In turn he was rejected by Tranmere Rovers for the same reason. Amokachi trained with French second division side US Créteil, but the deal was hampered by injuries. American MLS team, Colorado Rapids, signed him in 2002, but seeing as he was not fit enough, they released him before a single match was played. He went to play in the United Arab Emirates but was denied again, due to his medical condition.

The ex-striker is actually a qualified lawyer, after graduating from a New York Law school.

WORLD CUP EXPERIENCE

Nobody was satisfied with our outing, after the 1994 World Cup in America, even for the fact that we played in the tournament for the first time. For an African team, we played the best football in the world. It is not easy to see a team building its strength from the back, but we did that. We beat Bulgaria 3–0, lost 1–2 to Argentina, beat Bulgaria 2–0 before losing to Italy. We lost that match to a silly mistake – the third world mentality – thinking that the game was over, and paid dearly for it. It would be difficult for Nigeria to produce a similar team like that of the 1994 set.

FUTURE AMBITION

Now a coach of the Under-23 national team, Amokachi is planning to make the best of the career. He said he would like to qualify Nigeria for the All Africa Games football event in Algeria next year and also win an Olympic gold in Beijin in 2008 as a coach.

He said he had won Olympic gold as a player in 1996 and he would like to win it as a coach, and from there, "I would look forward to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa." He prayed that with good health and long life, he would get there.

But Amokachi didn’t want to head any football administrative position. He said he had tried it before and it didn’t just suit his idea.

"I started as Under-23 team manager, then I saw that it wasn’t for me because I sat there and was not contributing anything to the team. I think administrative-wise, Nigeria has a lot of intelligent people who could change the concept of football. I just hope people give them a free hand to operate successfully," he said.



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