Despite the possibility of Emmanuel Amunike coaching Super Eagles, neither the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) nor the former player should rush his return.
All Super Eagles fans know that former winger will end up coaching their team one day. Nonetheless, the timing is decisive, and maybe now is not the right time for that to happen.
Amunike not just one of those players that represent the peak of positional style player at Super Eagles; rather, he was one of the fulcrums that made sure that the engine of the team worked as well as it did.
Despite retiring so early due to injuries, fams knew that one day he will come back and run the engine of this team – albeit from the sidelines.
Even outgoing coach Gernot Rohr was getting results, the name of Amunike continued to pop up on the dailies.
This whole discussion is up and running again. The team has struggled recently and Rohr has been reportedy told to step aside. “Bring back Amunike” was the call, with no regard for the current boss, no patience for his project and utter ignorance of the shambles that he inherited, in the name of a squad.
That any manager deserves a proper full campaign to start from the scratch and to implement changes in the personnel is being forgotten here. But even if, for arguments’ sake, we agree that Rohr’s time is up at Super Eagles, does that necessarily mean the time is ripe for Amunike to take up this job?
Managing any good team at a crucial period is a challenge. Managing one that is so unforgiving and demanding one as Super Eagles is on another level altogether. Success on multiple fronts is the bench mark. The style has to be maintained. But in developing it, the team should keep winning too! In addition, it would probably be difficult to find a fan community that is as spoilt as those of Super Eagles. They always feel winning and playing entertaining football is their birthright.
Make no mistake, the day Amunike takes up this role, he is not going to be just Emmanuel; he will be dubbed the next Stephen Keshi. Constant comparisons will keep haunting him, irrespective of the fact that these are two different people, and that the game itself has moved on from Keshi’s days at Super Eagles.
As cited earlier, Amunike is one of the best exponents of the footballing style integrated by Clemense Westerhoef. But being a brilliant student does not automatically make one a great teacher. Amunike’s experience has led him to Al Khartoum, Tanzania and Misr Lel Makkasa. With all due respect to the latter, it would be wrong to assume that the next step then is the managerial post of Super Eagles.
This is one side of the equation. The other is that he has start from the scratch which will be impossible for a team desperate to perform at Africa Cup of Nations and qualify for Qatar 2022.
The negativity that surrounds the team is so heavy that even experienced coaches would suffocate under its weight. What would that do to a comparatively inexperienced one like Amunike? It will simply burn him out before he even had a chance. And that would be a shame, for he has the potential to lead future Super Eagles sides to glory.
The NFF must turn to a foreign coach; someone who has spent years and even decades on the sidelines. Someone who understands African football.
It is not just that there is no need to hurry; the fact is that it would probably be a grave mistake to hurry. And Amunike, of all the people, should know not to release the ball too early.