CAIRO, Egypt, Apr 9 – Tanzania qualified for the African Cup of Nations for the first time in 39 years, a final day 3-0 victory over Uganda Cranes at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam handing them a place among Africa’s elite under new coach Emmanuel Amunike.
The former Nigerian international, much criticized after his appointment in August 2018 shushed his opponents in a huge way by taking the Taifa Stars back to the kings’ table of the African game.
“So many people said things when I was appointed but for me, I don’t listen to them. You don’t have to like me for me to do my job. My work is on the pitch and that is my only concern. I wanted to go out and show what can do. Most people who talk are cowards. I don’t talk much,” Amunike said, speaking to Capital Sport in Cairo on Tuesday.
The former Nigerian international said he wasn’t under pressure to see Tanzania qualify especially heading into a final day must-win tie.
“I wasn’t under any pressure at all. I am used to pressure all my life as a player and as a coach. It will always be there but you can’t get yourself disoriented by it,” Amunike stated.
The tactician, going back to what he refers as his second home, Egypt, wants to ensure Tanzania make a mark in their AFCON return and believes they have the ability to do well and beat the continent’s top cream.
“We have a good team, good players who are hungry for success. I believe we can compete with the rest because we qualified on merit,” Amunike noted.
He considers Egypt his second home as he played for Zamalek in his hey days and is still considered a legend for the White Knights. On the plane and at the airport, several Zamalek fans working late night posed with the tactician for photos, reminiscing the old days.
“Please come back to Zamalek… not to play but to coach. We are winning the league this year,” one told him as he sat at his seat on the plane to Cairo on Monday night.
He says that he has so much sentimental attachment to Egypt.
“I really feel great coming here and coming back as a coach of a team that plays in the Cup of Nations makes it better. I hope it is going to be a sweet return,” said Amunike who won the Cup of Nations as a player with Nigeria in Tunisia in 1994.
-Four East Africans
The draw for this year’s competition will be held in Cairo right next to the pyramids in Giza and for the first time, four East African countries will be represented with Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Burundi all part of the mix.
“I think it is something great for the region to have four teams participating and it shows that the level of football is improving. Hopefully all of us can do well and compete against the top teams,” stated the tactician.
Kenya and Tanzania are in the same pot while Uganda and Burundi are also in the same pot for Friday’s draw. This means, two East African countries might find themselves in the same pool.
There is also a possibility that Amunike might see his side pooled against home team Nigeria. Is he excited of that prospect?
“Well, that would be very interesting,” he said.
-Ready for anyone
“We are ready for anyone in the group. If you are qualified, you should be ready to face anyone,” stated the tactician.
Unlike Kenya and Uganda who have set plans to camp in France and Belgium respectively, Amunike is yet to put out express camping and training plans for his team.
“We will be playing in Africa so most likely we can train in Africa. We will wait to see which group we are in then we can make further arrangements. But it is a bit tricky because the league ends in May and we need to look out for the players in terms of rest and recovery because we want to have fresh players in Egypt; that’s the most important thing,” Amunike stated.
-Timothy Olobulu is reporting from Cairo, Egypt-
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