Football is life, God has used it to showcase me, says Amokachi
* Set to nurture children to become football stars at the Meadow Hall Summer Football Camp
No doubt, there has been serious dip in the country’s football. The ‘Golden Generation’ (1994-1998), led by the late Stephen Keshi, has given way to ‘Struggling Generation’ (1998 to date), with the Super Eagles metamorphosing into ‘Super Chickens’ and ‘Egrets’.
For many keen followers of Nigerian football, this does not bode well for a country with a population of over 150 million people.
Daniel Owefin Amokachi is part of the ‘Golden Generation’, and he is not happy with how the country is still struggling to make impact in the continent’s football after its 1994 zenith, when it was the fifth best team in the world.
Nicknamed ‘Dan, The Bull’ in his playing days, Amokachi is now a coach. Beyond coaching and training, his vision is to help develop talent for Nigerian football, which is currently going through its darkest period. Already, he is involved in a summer football camp for young ones between the ages of four and 17.
“The summer camp is about giving the younger generation an opportunity to discover their football talent and learn the basic techniques of the game,” he said.
According to Amokachi, “the camp offers children opportunity to develop interest in football and start training at an early age. The camp is an opportunity to build the children’s dream of becoming world-class football stars.”
He believes that the summer camp is a beautiful project that will help discover and develop talents. “It is impressive to see a school involved in a project like this that will help the development of sports at the grassroots level. We cannot expect the government to do everything, private sector involvement in sports is needed and I am happy to partner with Meadow Hall on this project. Padmozi Sports Marketing Company and the Lagos State Football Association are also supporting the project,” he disclosed.
The Summer Football Camp is open to children from Nigeria and other African countries, and already, there is provision for accommodation at a highly subsidised rate for children living outside Lagos. “The camp is open during the summer break; parents can easily register their children for the Summer Football Camp since it will not interfere with their academic pursuit. I am expecting every child that has interest in football to register. There will also be special training sessions for school football teams.
“It is really for the children to come and learn the skills, techniques and enjoy the game of football. In the course of the Summer Football Camp, if we see or spot a talent we will discuss with the school and parents and advise them on the next steps to take. Our ultimate aim is to raise world-class football stars hence the operation catch them young. Children availability at the Summer Football Camp is the first step, so I would like to encourage parents to register their children both male and female,” he said.
Already, registration for the camp has started, and there is good discount for schools or group registration. It is, however, advisable to register on or before June 30, to ensure the participant gets a customised jersey. The camp will run from July 18 to 22. The camp will hold at Meadow Hall, Lekki, Lagos. To register, you can visit:www.springmeadowedutainment.com.
Amokachi, who started playing football in his secondary school at Government College, Kaduna, said, “every youngster wants to play football. At an early age, it is important to let the children have the football experience and learn the basics of the game.”
He revealed, “I look forward to meeting these children in future or even seeing them on TV playing in Europe or with a club side in Nigeria. I must also say that sports generally help to develop the children’s mind, thinking ability and social skills. Therefore, parents should always encourage their children to participate in sports especially football.”
Considering his new role as a technical director with JS Hercules, you wonder how he will be able to handle the camp. He has this to say: “That’s where the technical input comes in. It’s all about creating a programme that will help the youngsters enjoy the beautiful game of football and learn about the techniques of the game, which will help them even beyond the camp. In addition, football is beyond the field, it will also help build their character and prepare them for life.”
In JS Hercules, his job is to organise programmes to develop the football academy, administration of the game and help improve the players’ performance.
He said, “in our generation, our priority was to study hard to become lawyers, engineers and doctors. But I realised that I enjoyed playing football. At age 16, I was called up to play for the Super Eagles and we went for a tournament in Holland. I later signed for Club Brugge in Belgium. I was just playing football and enjoying the game, but it turned out to be a path God had ordained for me to take and up till now I am still enjoying the grace that God has bestowed upon me.
“Every child has been ordained to take a different path in life, if your child has the interest and talent why not. But at an early age, giving your child the opportunity to engage in different activities and sports camps is important. I believe in the holistic development of children and providing opportunities for their development not just through an academic curriculum, but through an active engagement in sports. Particularly allowing them engage in sports at an early age is very important,” Amokachi, who was discovered while playing for Ranchers Bees by Clemens Westerhof, advised parents.
Giving a brief insight into how he got involved with the Meadow Hall Football Camp, he said, “I met the Meadow Hall family in 2016 during my visit to Nigeria. I walked into the school in Lekki, Lagos and I was amazed at the beautiful learning environment they have put in place for grooming children, which is not something you see often in Nigeria. I was also impressed at the attention given to providing world-class sporting facilities to keep the children engaged. The Astro-turf, 25m swimming pool, 100m running track and other world-class sports and games facilities.”
He continued, “I totally aligned with their vision of raising excellent, Godly and well-rounded children who will attain their highest potential in life and become lifelong learners. Based on the above vision, I decided to partner with them in identifying and nurturing football talent of young children not only from Meadow Hall, but children from other schools. We had the first football camp in December last year tagged, ‘Christmas Soccer Camp with Daniel Amokachi’ and it was a huge success. The children enjoyed it thoroughly and I am looking forward to joining them again this summer. I had fun and the children also had fun, but more importantly, they learnt a lot.
I am very passionate about the development of football in Nigeria and particularly giving young people the opportunity to develop their skills at an early age.”
On one of his best memories on the field as a player, he said, “I enjoyed every bit of my football career. My football career was cut short by an injury I sustained when I was only 28 years. Before then, I had a wonderful time playing in Nigeria, Belgium, England, Turkey and USA. I was blessed to win several trophies- FA Cup, Olympics, African Cup of Nations. I represented Nigeria at two different world cups, the Olympics and Confederations Cup.”
He said, “I just give glory to God Almighty for everything I was able to achieve. The memories still stay with me and I cannot pick one experience as the most memorable. I enjoyed every moment of my playing experience.”
Amokachi, who is the first player to score a goal in the 25 years old UEFA Champions League, said, “football is life. God has used football to showcase me to the world. Even though I stopped playing competitively in 2000, the name Daniel Amokachi still rings a bell to many people around the world which tells you that God has definitely blessed me,” he answered.
Remembered for his beret wearing celebrations, Amokachi will be representing Nigeria at the Star Sixies FIFA tournament. “I was called by JJ Okocha who is the captain of the Nigerian team for the tournament and I am happy to be part of it. It is all about ex-internationals around the world coming back to play the beautiful game of football.
The inaugural competition will hold in July at the O2 Arena. The tournament will no doubt bring back memories, especially to our fans that have not us play in years,” he said.