Former Nigeria/ Barcelona winger and current Tanzania head coach, Emmanuel Amuneke, tells Completesportsnigeria.com’s JOHNNY EDWARD in this exclusive chat about his personal experience in El Clasico ahead of this Sunday’s big clash between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid – the 238th el clasico billed for Camp Nou.
The 238th El Clasico comes up this Sunday, and for the first time in nine years, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will not feature. Will this take the shine from what many believe to be the biggest derby in world football?
In as much as many believe their absence won’t take any shine off it, trust me it will because the build-up to the game is always centred around the two players. They have both won five Ballon d’Or titles and they headline this big derby.
So both players missing out on the El Clasico will definitely take some part of it away, but the other players can use this to rewrite history on Sunday. We’re just expecting to see who will light up the derby on Sunday now that there’s no Messi and Ronaldo.
You played in only one El Clasico during days at Barcelona. Could you share with us how the build-up was like back then?
Na war that time o! Players looked up to that game, and even a good game in the Clasico would see them keep their place in the team. I had one good experience with Barcelona and I was happy we won.
Our coach then Louis Van Gaal and several Spanish players in the team knew what it took to win the big game. The Catalan city was always agog prior to the game and players knew how a victory could see them celebrate afterwards.
Which other derby in world football do you think rivals the El Clasico?
For me there’s none that comes close to El Clasico. The quality of players on parade, the stadium, the ambience, the rivalry so intense, and even the players know they can’t afford to lose.
Those who play in Italy will pick the Rome derby or the Milan derby while in England, the Manchester derby, London derby also is regarded highly. But I think the Milan derby too in the past was one derby that many football followers looked forward to.
Let’s come back home a bit, you played for Julius Berger before you moved to Zamalek in Egypt. Back then, was the big clash between Shooting Stars and Enugu Rangers as classic as the El Clasico?
That was a big game back then too but not as big as El Clasico. It had to be referred to as big match as well, but not as big as El Clasico.
The country you’re currently coaching Tanzania are currently second in Group L of 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers with five points from four games . With two games left to play, do you think you can make history by leading the Taifa Stars to the AFCON tournament for the first time in over two decades?
Nothing is impossible. We know what is at stake, and we are ready to go down that lane to see we make ourselves proud. We face Lesotho away and we’ll try to win there to boost our chances of reaching the AFCON in Cameroon. Uganda who are the group leaders will host Cape Verde, so we hope and pray both games end in our favour.
And the Super Eagles?
They are one step closer to Cameroon. One more win for the Super Eagles and we are through and I think it’s a good development for us after playing at the World Cup. The AFCON is another tournament for this young team to grow further.