Nigeria opt for continuity in their youth coaching set-up

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport, Lagos
Manu Garba
Manu Garba

Manu Garba, who led Nigeria to a record fourth under-17 World Cup title in the UAE last year, has been named as the new coach of their under-20 side.

Garba is highly revered by the local fans after his U17 team clinched the country's fourth title on Asian soil following previous success in China 1985, Japan 1993 and South Korea 2007.

The technical committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) have also ratified the appointment of former international winger Emmanuel Amuneke as the new under-17 coach.

"We have opted for continuity because these coaches are highly experienced and qualified to continue with the progress we are making," NFF's head of technical department Emmanuel Ikpeme told BBC Sport.

"We've had a couple of disappointing experiences in the past and it was felt that we couldn't take the same route again.

"Manu Garba knows the boys from the under-17s but they are gradually moving to Europe, hence he must look inward [locally] and the NFF will give him all the required support.

"Amuneke has transformed from a great player to one of the finest youth coaches in Africa and we believe he deserves his under-17 role as well.

"On our part, we believe these significant coaching decisions were necessary for development."

The NFF will be hoping these appointments will finally bring desired success especially at the under-20 level.

Manu Garba will be assisted by former international Nduka Ugbade, who was one of his assistants in the UAE, in his new role as coach of the under-20 side.

Emmanuel Amuneke
Emmanuel Amuneke, Nigeria Under-17 coach

Despite global successes at under-17 and Olympic (under-23) level, the Flying Eagles have never been crowned under-20 world champions even though they have appeared in ten finals tournaments.

The West Africans have twice finished as runners-up in the Fifa under-20 tournament in Saudi Arabia 1989 and Holland 2005.

Meanwhile, the choice of former Zamalek, Sporting Lisbon and Barcelona winger Emmanuel Amuneke, as the under-17 coach has been applauded by the local media.

Amuneke, whose final days as a player were blighted by injury, is regarded as an iconic figure in the national game after scoring significant goals for his country.

His two goals in Nigeria's 2-1 win over Zambia secured their second African title in Tunisia in 1994.

That heroic performance for club and country was good enough to earn him the Caf African Player of the Year award in 1994.

Amuneke scored the goal that clinched Africa's first football gold medal as a carefree Nigerian side won Africa's first Olympic football gold medal in 1996.

He won the 1996 BBC African Footballer of the Year award after scoring the winner in a 3-2 win against Argentina that sealed one of football's most heart-warming victories.

His exploits caught the eye of Spanish giants Barcelona, who signed him from Portugal's Sporting Lisbon in December that year, but his career never fully recovered after suffering a bad knee injury in 1997.

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