Exclusive: Selfless Amuneke standing strong with friend Finidi despite losing out on Super Eagles job

Explore the journey of Nigerian football legends Finidi George and Emmanuel Amuneke, who were contenders to replace former Super Eagles coach Jose Peseiro.

Jidechi Chidiezie
J. Chidiezie

Last Updated: 2024-05-29

Louis Hobbs

5 minutes read

Nigerian legends Finidi George (white) and Emmanuel Amuneke (brown) embrace during an Enyimba FC fixture

Sometime in March, Nigeria was reported to have had two names, Finidi George and Emmanuel Amuneke, penned down as possible replacements for Jose Peseiro, former head coach of the men's national football team - the Super Eagles. 

Both candidates were legends of Nigerian football and were part of the team that helped Nigeria climb to the summit of African football in the 1990s. 

Image Credits: TeeA13/Twitter

Image Credits: TeeA13/Twitter

After their illustrious playing careers, both men served as assistant coaches at various levels, eventually rising to managerial positions, handling either African club heavyweights such as Enyimba, or Zanaco and recording successes of various kinds, be it winning world youth tournaments with Nigeria's U-17 team, breaking continental records with Tanzania or dominating the Nigerian league with Enyimba.

Now, with George - the chosen one - on the verge of officially starting his reign as Nigeria's new manager during June's 2026 FIFA World Cup African qualifiers, Amuneke, who seems to have already moved from thinking about the allure that the role could have given his coaching career, admitted that he has nothing but trust in his ‘friend’ to deliver on the job.

"Finidi is a very good friend of mine, there's no doubt about his ability. I wish him the best of luck," the former Tanzanian national team head coach said in an exclusive interview with SportsBoom.

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I do a lot of things, I have family and more. Let's see what destiny brings, but for now, I want to enjoy my time with my family.

Emmanuel Amuneke

Amuneke proud despite setback

Although the antecedents of the 53-year-old's coaching career were not enough to earn him the Super Eagles job in 2024, he was quick to express that he is proud of what he has achieved so far in his coaching career.

In 2015, Amuneke who was at the time coaching the likes of Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze at youth level, led Nigeria's under-17 team to a record fifth FIFA U-17 World Cup title in Chile.

Image Credits: Alex Grimm/FIFA via Getty Images

Image Credits: Alex Grimm/FIFA via Getty Images

Four years down the line, he was with the Tanzanian national team, helping them to qualify for their first Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in 39 years.

"I have not done bad as a coach. I started at club level as an assistant and then the national [youth] team where myself and the Nduka Ugbade-led crew, achieved that World Cup in 2013. And in 2015 I was the chief coach, we achieved that again, we were able to defend the tournament," Amuneke said glowingly of himself.

"My biggest desire is to do what I love. As a player, I loved to play at the big clubs and I was privileged to have done that. As a coach, I wish to be at the big stages - which I have done too with Tanzania.

"I am never afraid to take challenges and that is why I can go to other people's countries to try to do something. I have been able to do the best I can. Learning never stops, it only stops the day you die."

Ambitious Amuneke always ready to add value

But while Amuneke continues to state that his focus right now is his family, as Nigeria resumes its World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin Republic, he also hinted that he is a true patriot who is 'ready to add value' if required, and if he considers the objectives 'right.

Image Credits: Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images

Image Credits: Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images

"Nigeria is my country. Whatever capacity it is that I can add value, I would," the former Nigerian international said, while responding to speculations that he could make a return to where he started his coaching career.

"It's possible that I make a return to NPFL, there is nothing wrong in coaching in the league. But I am one person with ambition, you cannot remain in Primary 1 three times in school. 

"Yes, my early days, I was here [coaching in the NPFL with Julius Berger and then Ocean Boys] but I have also moved on to coach in Sudan and other different places. If the challenges call for it, and the objectives are right, and the environment is conducive, why not?" he puzzled

Jidechi Chidiezie
Jidechi ChidiezieSports Writer

Jidechi is a freelance correspondent for SportsBoom, covering the Nigerian market. He brings over a decade's wealth of experience to the team having worked with various sports brands as a broadcast and digital media journalist.