Recuperating former Super Eagles coach, Christian Chukwu, has assured Nigerians that he’s not quitting coaching for now as he battles fitness after his treatment abroad.
Speaking exclusively to 1stnewsonline.com from his base in Enugu, skipper of the 1980 Green Eagles’ Nations Cup winning side revealed that he has a lot to offer the country in coaching and assured that he is working on his fitness before making a comeback to the dugout.
He said, “I’m working on my fitness for now because I know I have a lot to offer football coaching in Nigeria. However, as soon as I’m physically fit and the Covid-19 pandemic, which is ravaging the world, is out of the way, I will make a comeback to the job I loved most.
“Nigeria is blessed with abundant football stars locally and internationally and it is our duty as coaches to move around and discover them on time so that their talent would be properly harnessed for the good of the nation.”
Recall that last year, Chukwu was diagnosed with an undisclosed ailment, but had to be flown to London, courtesy of business mogul, Femi Otedola, for urgent treatment.
He had a successful treatment a few days after arrival in London, according to the media officer of Enugu Rangers, Norbert Okonkwo.
Going further down memory lane on how God used billionaire businessman, Otedola, to save his life, Chukwu added, “I’m grateful to Femi Otedola because God used him to save my life. He was God-sent and I will forever remain grateful to him and my God. I never knew him (Otedola) or even had any encounter with him, but he came to my rescue, using his resources and financed my treatment abroad.
“I also remain thankful to my fans and Nigerians, who prayed for my speedy recovery.”
When asked if he is proud to be a Nigerian, based on his experience as a player and coach, Chukwu said he dedicated his life serving the country all through his playing career and coaching experience, but was quick to add that he had nothing to regret as a Nigerian.
“I’m proud to be a Nigerian and I’m proud of my country because I have no other country except Nigeria. I represented my country both as a player and coach; though I once coached abroad, there is no place like home,” he said.
Speaking on the quality of home-based players currently plying their trade in the country, Chukwu affirmed that Nigeria has quality players that can even win the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as they did in 1980 and went further to reveal the secret behind the success story of the 1980 Eagles’ squad.
He said, “We still have quality players at our home front that can go as far as winning AFCON for the country as we did with the Green Eagles in 1980. You could see that majority of the players in that 1980 AFCON winning side were majorly home-based players, who were exceptionally good.
“It took the coaching crew, led by Brazil’s Prof. Otto Gloria, six-solid years to build that team and that was why we played as a well-blended side.
“The 1980 Green Eagles squad had great winning mentality because we had experience individually and collectively, having played at AFCON finals in Ethiopia and Ghana, winning bronze on both occasions prior to our triumph on home soil. However, when it was the turn of Nigeria to host it in 1980, we were already a blended side and had nothing to worry about, but go all out to win.
“Back home here, we have such quality players today in our leagues, but what is lacking is the ability of our national team handlers to visit our league venues to fish-out these hidden stars. Remember, a lot of our foreign-based players once played at home before they jetted out for greener pastures abroad. So, we need to step up our search and unearth these future soccer greats playing in our leagues.”
Chukwu captained the Enugu Rangers FC team that won the Africa Cup Winners’ Cup in 1977 before leading the then Green Eagles on home soil to win Nigeria’s first–ever Africa Cup of Nations title in 1980, receiving the brand new Unity Cup from then President Shehu Shagari.
Nicknamed ‘Chairman’ for his prowess and authority he exuded as he marshalled the defence and launched onslaughts on the opposition’s defence for club and country, he later served as assistant coach of the first Nigerian team to win a FIFA World Cup trophy as the Golden Eaglets lifted the then FIFA-Kodak U16 World Cup in China in 1985.
Chukwu was also assistant coach of the 1994 Class of Super Eagles that qualified Nigeria for her first FIFA World Cup finals; won the Africa Cup of Nations title same year and reached the Round of 16 at USA’94 FIFA World Cup finals. Also, between 2002 and 2005, Chukwu led the Super Eagles, to win bronze medal at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.