For football lovers and fans around the world, Daniel Owefin Amokachi’s name is very popular amongst Naija’s Super Eagle stars in the 90s. He rocked the football sector like a colossus and his astounding perfomances on the field has set him apart from the rest. The star striker who was born on 30 December 1972 is a professional footballer, and former assistant manager of the Nigeria national football team. He has been a technical director since 2006. With World Cup performances, he was third in the African Footballer of the Year award three times.
As a forward, he was known for his speed, technique and physical strength, which earned him the nicknames Black Bull and Black Train. Amokachi, who is also very popular and well known in the country, contributed to Nigeria’s top two tournaments to the World Cup along with his attack partner Emmanuel Amunike. He scored the first goal of the UEFA Champions League with Club Brugge on 25 November 1992.Amokachi, nicknamed “The Bull”, was discovered while playing for Ranchers Bees by former Nigerian national team coach Clemens Westerhof, who brought the talented player to the 1990 African Nations Cup, and soon moved to play for Club Brugge in Belgium.
He competed in the new format of the Champions League, and became the first player to score in the competition, after his goal secured a 1–0 win in the opening match in the group stage against CSKA Moscow. Performing well in Belgium and at the 1994 World Cup, Everton became interested in Amokachi and their manager Mike Walker signed him for a fee of £3,000,000 ($4,700,000). He went on to win the FA Cup with Everton in 1995 as the first African, famously infuriating manager Joe Royle by bringing himself on as a substitute, then proceeding to score two goals in the semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur.
He appeared in the final only briefly, late on, as a substitute but is remembered fondly for his beret wearing celebrations. He remained at Everton until the end of the 1995–96 season, when he was transferred to Besiktas of Turkey for a fee of £1.75million. He played many international matches for Nigeria, and was part of the team that participated in the 1994 FIFA World Cup and 1998 FIFA World Cup and won the 1994 African Nations Cup.
He also helped win the Olympic gold medal in 1996, scoring in the Gold Medal game itself against Argentina. He managed Nigerian club Nasarawa United and later Enyimba Aba. In April 2007, he quit his role as assistant coach of the Nigeria national team. On 10 April 2008, He was re-appointed to Nigeria’s national team, the Super Eagles, as assistant coach to Shuaibu Amodu, and then as assistant to Stephen Keshi. In 2015, he managed Ifeanyi Ubah, resigning after five weeks in the post. In January 2016, he was named as manager of JS Hercules.
Amokachi is married to a Tunisian woman and the couple met each other in Tunisia in 1994 where he won the African Nations Cup. They both have two twin sons named Kalim and Nazim who are following their father’s footsteps in becoming footballers. Both are currently in the Besiktas youth academy.
City People Society Editor, TAYO FAJORIN OYEDIJI caught up with this young legend at the just concluded Arise
Women Walk for Life where he was a celebrity guest and he opened up on life after football and career of 15 years.
How do you feel being part of the celebrity guests to take part in this Walk?
First of all , It is my honour to be here. I feel excited and great to be here, this is my second time coming though, I was here last year, and I told myself with what I saw last year, I won’t miss it for anything in the world. I got invited again and here I am again. I have enjoyed every bit of my stay here.
It has been over 2 hours that we have been at it now, how was the 10km walk and what benefits does this have on women taking part in it?
I feel very good, I feel very relieved. If you ask anybody they will tell you the same. we always tell people that exercise is the best medicine you can give yourself. We don’t have to wait before the doctor sees anything in us and we are trying to go out there to lose some pounds in us. So it is what we have to keep doing every time. Our organs internally need a lot of excercie, it keeps the body together, it rejuvenates the body and makes you keep fit.Like I said, it is the best medicine you can give yourself, no doubt about that,we encourage people as much as possible everyday even if it is 25 to 30 mins, keep yourself busy,it will really help in a long way and keep a lot inside of you.
You don’t have to wait for the doctor to say anything before you exercise, it is a good thing, we want to see women look sexy, let them go out there, keep fit because it makes them look sexier and at their best. They will even be their happier self. Exercising is very good for women and thank God more women are participating in sport now and more competent in terms of doing work out.
What is Amokachi doing presently?
I am a technical director with a club in Finland, I got the job in 2016, I coached for one year then financially the club was not very stable and I put it to them that I will want to be flexible and they agreed so I am now their technical director.
You are one of the great Nigerian football legends of our time, how do you feel? do you miss those periods of your active playing days?
Not really, I am a strong believer, everything that I became today has been ordained from heaven and that is why I made it playing football. Being a footballer has been fulfilling and I thank God where he has brought me so far, Of course you can’t be on the pitch forever but I am very fulfilled that I represented my country well. The 10 to 15 years I spent on the field, I enjoyed every bit of it. I am not going to look back and say I missed it but I stand here to thank God for all he has done for me.
Can you share some of your glorious moments with us?
I think it all starts when you have your first call to play in professional football. That was a major breakthrough for me. Talking about my first major tournament as a football player, I am the first African that won the FA cup in Everton, first footballer that scored the first goal in Uefa champions league, I was part of the team that won the Olympic gold medal in football at Atlanta 96, I have been at the world cup twice as a footballer and twice as a coach and I won the Afcon as a player, 1994 and as a coach,2013 so there are a lot of golden moments for me. That is why I said I don’t look back and regret any moment but I look back and rejoice over everything God has done and gave to me.
How exactly did football start for you?
Back in the days, you know parents don’t always allow their children play football, what is in their head is how they should be a lawyer, doctor or teacher but this is the skill I grew up with on the street. Back in the days if anybody tells you how he got into football without street skills, he is not saying the truth.
I later started playing for a team in Kaduna and I was scouted, I was enrolled in the first team and the Super Eeagles coach, Westerhof saw me and enrolled me for Super Eagles and here I am. It is His grace of God. It’s His grace I am enjoying so far and I thank God for it.
What can you say about the present Super Eagle Players?
Generation changes, let them keep doing what they are doing. Football is life, it keeps people together. They should keep their passion burning. Passion got me where I am today not any other thing and determination with a lot of zeal. Let them win a lot of trophies and make money for themselves as well.
What about your existing friendship with your then teammates?
We are all good, if you look around now, Uche Okechukwu is here with me, we keep intouch, we relate a lot and that is what life is all about.
Why do people call you the Bull?
Well, I thank my fans for giving me the nick name. It has also made me well known. They saw that I have the characteristics of a bull when I am on the field, the energy, the speed and my non-resilient spirit sums everything up. The alias ‘Black bull’ has registered since when I was playing active football. Like I said, football is passion driven for me so I played it with all of me. It has really paid off.