Monday, January 24, 2011

Akuneto wants to help our Eaglets soar

 Source: NEXT (Nigeria)

 By Ifeanyi Ibeh

 January 23, 2011 01:43AM

 Current coach of the Nigerian under-17 team, Monday Odigie had better watch out as Chukwuma Akuneto has his eyes on the Golden Eaglets coaching job.

Akuneto, a former Nigerian junior international with over seven years experience in coaching, most of it in England, believes he is in a better position to handle the Golden Eaglets especially in the aftermath of the team’s failure to qualify for the African U-17 Championship, which was concluded yesterday in Rwanda.

It was the second time in a row that the Golden Eaglets would be missing at the tournament which also serves as the qualifying tournament for the FIFA U-17 World Cup coming up in June in Mexico.

In Nigeria’s absence, Congo, who had eliminated the Golden Eaglets during the qualifiers, along with Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Rwanda secured the continent’s four World Cup slots ahead of the likes of Senegal, Mali, Egypt and former African champions Gambia who were most pundits pre-tournament favourites to qualify for the World Cup. Odigie, in a recent interview with NEXT, revealed that he had submitted his programmes ahead of the next round of qualifiers to the Nigeria Football Federation and only expecting their go-ahead to begin preparations in earnest for future engagements.

That go-ahead may however not materialize as there are some NFF board members who are still aggrieved by the failure of the Eaglets to make it to Rwanda, especially with the abundance of talent in the country.

As a result, Odigie may eventually go the same way as other coaches who had in times past failed to excel with the Eaglets, with the NFF left with no choice other than to pick a new handler for the team.

If that ends up being the case, Akuneto is hoping he will get to be the one to get the nod of the NFF as he believes he has the knowledge and experience to develop and churn out potential super stars for the country.

“It will be a great honour to be given the privilege of serving my country in a coaching capacity,” Akuneto informed NEXT. “I want to use my knowledge and experience to help identify, prepare and develop the young ones to restore our great country back to its true position in this age category and provide a solid base for the players to develop and represent Nigeria at the under 21, under 23 and even senior levels.”

Vast experience

The former Stationery Stores, ACB, Concord, Udoji United and Enugu Rangers defender, has since 2006 been the Head Football Coach and Sports Tutor at Manchester College and has led the college’s team to numerous titles most notably the 2008 Football Youth Conference League, the 2009 British Colleges Elite Cup, the 2009 British Colleges Futsal Cup, as well as the 2010 Greater Manchester County Schools Cup.

The team currently tops the Youth Conference League standings after 10 games.

Besides his work with Manchester College, Akuneto, who had previously coached in India, has since 2009 combined his work with the renowned institution along with the job of Youth Coach at lower league side FC United whose youth team are still unbeaten in the North West Youth Alliance League after 12 games.

In his spare time he scouts for Premier League side Blackburn Rovers and is currently studying for his UEFA A Coaching Licence, and it is all these experience that he will be bringing into the Nigerian cadets team set-up.

Much travelled

“I have worked in Nigeria, India, Cameroon, Vietnam, Maldives and England so my successful experience and expertise at coaching young people, improving them and then turning them into better players technically, tactically, mentally and physically is what I’ll be bringing into the team,” Akuneto said.

“The numerous skills and knowledge I have acquired by being educated to a high level here in Europe and being around the game on a daily basis in a professional capacity, and the invaluable experience I have acquired by having been involved with the game in three continents also stands me in good stead for the job,” he said.

But if he does get the nod of the NFF to tinker the Eaglets, what are his short and long term plans for the side?

“On the short term, my ambition is to lay the foundations of a solid team through a carefully planned youth development programme with inputs from people in Nigeria who also understand the process involved,” he continued.

He says his long term plan would be to turn the Nigerian U-17 team into a team that brings joy to millions of Nigerians through the way it plays and gets good results we produce, as well as the long term development of the players, a greater percentage of who will end up playing important roles for the Eagles in years to come.

To achieve he says he would have to, “liaise with the NFF and other coaches in Nigeria, the various State FA’s, organisers of age group tournaments, local football clubs and the Press who can help to make sure that we do select players who are truly within the specified age group.”