Former Super Eagles’ attacker, Daniel Amokachi has hinted that the present Super Eagles team under coach Gernot Rohr, will soar high during the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The former Everton of England striker, who put on his dancing shoes after his goal sank Bulgaria during the group match of the USA’94 FIFA World Cup also urged the Eagles to go for world class jubilation capable of making the kids smile as he sees the tournament as a means of entertainment.
The 1995 English FA Cup winner and first Nigerian international to have featured in a UEFA Champions League game also dwelt on how the team will beat group rivals, his ups and downs during his hey days, why players are always under pressure while playing for Nigeria, reasons behind his nickname “ The bull” and challenges he faced while coaching the Super Eagles as well as his love life and lots more in this interview with The Sun Sports on Saturday.
The Super Eagles have been pitched alongside Croatia, Argentina and Iceland; what’s your take?
If you want to be the best, there is no way you won’t meet and beat the best. All the Super Eagles need do is to beat Croatia in the group opener. If we can do this, then I see us qualifying to the next round because we would be playing the next opponent with confident. I wish we booked the knockout ticket before we play Argentina. Argentina, being our last group game will be good one for us. I remember they are the one we played last before gaining a knockout ticket in our last FIFA World Cup outing in Brazil. And I hope with all this, all would be fine.
Why do you wish we gained the qualification ticket before meeting Argentina?
Let’s not deceive ourselves, Argentina remains the biggest team in that group and either we like it or not, the team is far above us in terms of quality. Let’s not forget, they are finalist in the last FIFA World Cup and they narrowly lost 1-0 to Germany. They will be coming with a whole lot of trouble and they won’t mind relishing the anger of the 4-2 defeat they suffered in our last international friendly. What am trying to say is, I wish we already gained qualification ticket before we meet them. This will put us in a more relaxed mood to play them. I wish we could play them in a relaxed mood to absolve any pressure they want to put on us.
How far can the Super Eagles go in Russia?
The current team happens to be one of the best in recent years. The team has no limit. I mean Cameroon once came close to reaching the semifinal stage of the World Cup, including Senegal and Ghana. So, why can’t Nigeria win it? We have the youngest set of players who would be participating in the World Cup and that alone speaks volume on how dangerous and tactical we are. Let’s just hope we qualify from the group before we start talking of something else, which can enhance our dream of winning the tournament.
How can you rate Gernot Rohr’s performance?
Rohr has been fantastic ever since he took up the Super Eagles’ job. I will only rate him on his World Cup qualification performance. We are yet to see his impact in the FIFA World Cup. Although every team and coach is as good as his or her last game. It’s a good one for him winning his last game against great team like Argentina. I was shocked seeing Nigeria defeat Argentina. And that alone speaks volume about coach Gernot Rohr’s technical know how.
Can you compare the team with the last set of Super Eagles under late Stephen Keshi?
Well, I can’t really say. Late Stephen Keshi’s boys did well by getting to the knockout stage of the tournament and I was also aware the team qualified for the World Cup on an unbeaten streak just like the Rohr boys did. Let’s wait and see what happens next. As for me, I think it’s too early for us to compare them. Rohr has not released his FIFA World Cup team. If he releases his list, then one can go ahead comparing them one after the other. But as I’ve said earlier, I really love the present players, they are young and are willing to make name.
After the USA ‘94 and France ‘98 FIFA World Cup, Nigeria is yet to score above three goals in each of the World Cup tournament they attended. As an ex international and former coach of the team, who is to be blamed for this?
I don’t think it’s no one’s fault. I only think it’s a wake up call for us to prepare well ahead of any tournament. There is no minor in football. All strikers must have the dream of sneaking their way through to score goals. National team football is different from that of club side. As a national team player, one is representing over 170 million Nigerians; I won’t blame any one, but will rather encourage them to keep scoring goals, as goal-scoring makes the game looks challenging. Some are under pressure whenever they notice they are representing a country worth over 170 million citizens.
Going back to memory line, the 94 set of Super Eagles squad scored a lot of goals and gave the fans some unforgettable celebration. What prompted your jubilation style?
I wasn’t the only one who gave the fans and media unique goal jubilation. I remember I danced after I scored a brilliant goal against Bulgaria. Finidi George celebration always made us laugh. My kids always joke about it. Our plan back then was to go and show the World little about the African culture. The FIFA World Cup is a festival on its own, so it would be good for the present set of Eagles to score beautiful goals that will bring unique celebration that kids will never forget. Not every fan will come for the sake of soccer; we footballers always remember some come for the entertainment part of it. The media for an adverts used my dance steps after I scored against Bulgaria, even till now and this make my kids and other kids laugh.
What are the challenges you encountered when you coached national team?
I went through some certain things that I can’t keep saying to the media. All I have to say is to thank God. Coaching national team is not a child’s play. When you coach a national team, it’s like one carrying a burden of a whole nation. Every fan would be waiting for a fast result. Some would be seeing you as a magician and others will stay in a corner to see you fail. But I thank God for where I am today. And I’m really happy that Nigerian football is growing every day. As we can see, we gain our qualification ticket with just a match to go and we also won our last game we played against Argentina.
Now to club level, You won the 1995 English FA Cup trophy with Everton and you are also known as the first Nigerian player to score in the new format of the UEFA Champions League while in Club Brugge. How do you feel back then?
Sincerely speaking, those achievements were the best I have ever achieved. You know when a young boy started doing great things, he feels on top of the world. Everything in life has its own time and season. I can only urge the young ones to look forward to my record. I mean the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho, Wilfred Ndidi and other upcoming stars, who are currently doing great.
How do you fell when your fans calls you ‘THE BULL’?
I always feel great whenever fans call me by the name ‘The Bull’. That name always inspired me. During my days, whenever I hear the name, I go extra mile in doing some unbelievable things. The name strengthened me and I am sure I was nicknamed ‘The bull’ because of my style of play. When you play the physical pattern, it makes you look rugged. I love doing the dirty job on the field because I see the round leather game as a game of contact.
How are your twins doing, and beside will you allow them play for the national team?
My twins are doing great. They are healthy like me. They also play same pattern of African football like me. They are playing in an academy in Europe and I won’t stop them from playing for Nigeria. I would be doing so because I believe there is no place like home. I will also be using this medium to call the attention of other players abroad to always try show love whenever they are called upon to represent Nigeria.