Amo still calling the shots
A few years ago, Daniel Amokachi was voted as the 69th greatest person in the country's history. However, he is better remembered by fans in Belgium, England and Turkey as being a colourful character, an entertaining footballer who had a penchant for scoring important goal.
In a career that included spells at Club Brugge, Everton, Besiktas, Creteil and Colorado Rapids, Amokachi also had success off the field as he graduated from a New York Law school as a qualified lawyer. He is married to a Tunisian supermodel, Nadia, and has two children - twin boys, who were born during his time with Everton FC in England.
Now in a coaching role with the Nigerian FA, the charismatic Kaduna-born star took time out of his hectic schedule to speak to FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Daniel Amokachi, it has been a while since people from outside of Nigeria have heard from you. What are you doing now?
Daniel Amokachi: Well, I am fine and I'm happy. I'm not playing anymore, I'm a coach, so I'm still involved in football.
When did you end your football career - and why?
I began to suffer with knee problems shortly during France 98. I didn't feel right for the following two seasons and the doctors told me that I should retire. Although I desperately wanted to continue, I couldn't play the way that I wanted, so I reluctantly accepted their advice. In 2001 I played my last competitive game.
You had a great career and gave the fans who watched you so many important memories. What stands out for you?
The day I made my debut against Nigeria, my first goal in a World Cup against Greece in USA 94 - even the referee congratulated me after I scored it! I also scored two goals after coming on as a substitute for Everton in the FA Cup semi final against Tottenham Hotspur in 1995 and won a winners medal the same year when we beat Manchester United at Wembley in the Final. I also won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympic Games with Nigeria and was the first player to score in the UEFA Champions League. I get a lot of pleasure from watching the videos of these matches. They bring back some wonderful memories. I thank God for each and every one of them.
What was the worst moment of your career?
It was the day that the doctors told me that I would have to retire.
You played in several countries in Europe: Belgium, Turkey and England, which one did you enjoy the most?
I did well for Club Brugge in Belgium, but in England I had a marvellous time. It was there that I got married and when my twins were born. My club, Everton, also won the FA Cup. In Turkey, I was treated brilliantly too. In fact, any country that I went to, I did my best to fit in. I enjoyed my time in each of them and most of all, I enjoyed my football in each of them.
Why were you nicknamed 'The Bull'?
Because of the way I played! People say that I played my football as if my life depended on it. I didn't use to tire, so I used to charge around the field. Also, when I was in possession, I was physically strong, so people found it very difficult to take the ball off me. That's where the name comes from!
One month ago, you were appointed as the coach of Nigeria's U-23 team by acting general secretary Fanny Amun, but since then the NFA have said that they want you to remain as the assistant coach of the senior team. Do you know what your role will be?
Well, I'm an employee, so I am waiting for the NFA to make a decision. They want me to contribute more and I am interested to see what they decide. Whatever they want me to do, I give 100 per cent to help my country.
In Nigeria, a lot of former players have been integrated in the technical crew of the national teams, but without coaching certificates. Do you think this is a good idea?
To be a coach, you have to be more than an ex-player. Only a select few can be a top coach without going through the necessary courses. The courses I have taken have helped me enormously. I try to encourage as many of my former team-mates who express an interest in coaching to get the qualifications they need.
Who do you think is the best African player in the world?
Well, it pleases me that we have a few excellent candidates. Samuel Eto'o is playing extremely well for Barcelona and Didier Drogba is also starring for Chelsea. Obafemi Martins and Michael Essien are also fantastic footballers. I am proud to say that there are many African footballers who would walk into any team in the world and do an excellent job. If I had to choose one of them, it would be Eto'o. He was voted as the African Player of the Year and I hope that one day he will be named as the FIFA World Player of the Year.
Does the racism that players still receive upset you?
Yes of course. Racism has been around for a very long time and I don't think there are many black and Asian players who haven't been affected by it at some stage of their careers. However, we have to keep on fighting the problem. We have to eliminate it.
Are you pleased with the stand FIFA have recently made?
Yes, I think it's a very good start. I think if clubs know that sanctions will be taken against them, they will do their best to educate the fans. I hope and pray that this will go a long way in solving the problem and I am sure that FIFA will continue to take measures against individuals who persist in abusing some of the games finest footballers, simply because of the colour of their skin.
Earlier in the interview you mentioned that you have twins. Do they play football like their dad?
Yes, they play football, but they're much better than their dad! I think they are more skilful than I was and they are doing well. I am encouraging them to play football, but it is their decision to make. My family and I will support them in whatever they decide to do.