Amuneke relishing Cairo return with Taifa Stars

19Jun 2019
The Guardian Reporter
CAIRO
The Guardian
Amuneke relishing Cairo return with Taifa Stars

NIGERIAN legend Emmanuel Amunike will make a return to Cairo, Egypt, a country and a city in which he chiselled for himself cult hero status during his days with Zamalek.

Amuneke featured for Zamalek between 1991 and 1994 leading them to back to back league titles in 1991/92 and 1992/93. He was also crowned African Player of the Year in 1994 whilst playing for the White Knights, where he ranks amongst the finest players ever in the history of the Cairo-based club.

The Nigerian still commands respect in Cairo and everywhere he went to during the draw of the Total Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019 last April, enthusiastic fans always asked to pose for selfies with him.

“I am really glad to be coming here (Cairo) because this is like a second home to me. I made great memories here,” Amuneke said in an interview with CAFOnline.com.

The former Barcelona midfielder appears to have made a swift transition from the pitch to the bench in 2008, with the highlight being guiding the Nigeria U-17 team to the ultimate at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile in 2015. After he had a brief stint with Sudanese side, Al Khartoum, before the offer to coach the Taifa Stars was sealed in August 2018.

Amuneke has managed to help Tanzania back to the high table of continental football for the first time in 39 years on his maiden attempt. The last appearance of the Taifa Stars at the AFCON was in 1980. His team secured qualification on the final day, thanks to a 3-0 victory at home over neighbours Uganda in Dar es Salaam.

“It was a very tough qualification and having not started well, we had to work hard in the last bit. We did our homework and I am glad that we achieved. I have a very good team and I have no doubt that we can do well,” stated the tactician.

Heading to the AFCON, Tanzania are grouped with neighbours Kenya, Algeria and Senegal. Knowing that he returns to his second home in Cairo, he expects the home fans to cheer on his Tanzanian side.

“Egyptians will definitely come to support me but our objective is to prepare well because even if they support you but we don’t do the right thing on the pitch it will have no meaning. But it will be good to enjoy the support from the local fans,” the AFCON winner with Nigeria’s Super Eagles in 1994 stated.

On the chances of his team, Amuneke is upbeat they can make an impact despite the pedigree of their opponents.

“It’s a good draw. We have to be realistic. All teams who made it here are all good and no team came here without fighting. If you are here, you must be ready to play anyone. You can’t wish for an easy group. All 24 teams are tough,” he noted.

On the mouth-watering East African derby expected with Kenya, Amuneke is relishing the prospect of lighting up Cairo with some football from the East. The rivals face off on 27 June at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo.

“Kenya and Tanzania are like brothers. There is a lot of mutual respect between Kenya and Tanzania and I know we will play some good football and showcase East African football to the rest of the world.

“This is the first time that four nations from East Africa have qualified for the AFCON and it shows that football in the region is growing. I am hoping we all can do well,” the coach further stressed.

The Taifa Stars begin their campaign against Senegal on 23 June at the 30 June before winding up against Algeria on 1 July at the Al Salaam Stadium, also in Cairo.

(AGENCIES