By Ikenwa Nwabuogor
IKENWA NNABUOGOR wonders how many more firsts Daniel Amokachi would have achieved in his illustrious career but for a wicked knee injury that cut short a glorious career.
It was no doubt Daniel Amokachi was on his way to making the most of his football career making the headlines with lot more achievements his injury-induced short career could muster.
“Da Bull” battled injuries especially on his knees that he had to retire prematurely at only 27 and sadly when he was supposed to be in his peak to shoot to the zenith of his career.
But his short career was so eventful that football watchers believe perhaps, he would have ended his career as one of the best to come out of Africa in terms of individual achievements.
Breaking records both locally and internationally were also part of his sweet short career for a player who surprisingly didn’t go through the cadet level to shoot to the top – a rare feat and also difficult to achieve.
From becoming the youngest player ever to feature at the African Cup of Nations finals at Algiers’90, to scoring the first-ever UEFA Champions League goal for Club Brugge, injury, indeed, was his biggest road block on his way to achieving more successes.
Not also wishing away his feat of becoming the first African player to win the Ebony Shoe Award in Belgium – an award for honouring the best African or of African heritage playing in Belgium.
He would also leave Belgium with two of those, testifying the fact that he would have grabbed a lot more elsewhere as it seemingly appeared he was bigger than Belgian football.
He would also finish third best African Player of the Year thrice to sign off his superb short career.
The Kaduna-born star brought his unique brand of attacking football, unorthodox, to say the least, not minding how many dangerous tackles he would ride.
That, sadly, put paid to his fast-paced career and cost him a lot more firsts to add to his individual honours’ cabinet.
English football was the next port of call for the then young, bullish “Da Bull” as the British press believed he was too good enough to achieve something big, describing him as the big black London taxi that was big enough to carry along more passengers.
His Everton stories have been severally told and it was too soon and sad to end his English Premier League sojourn with his many troubles with manager Joe Royle.
Royle inherited “Amo Taxi” from Mike Walker, who had taken a walk from Goodison Park soon after convincing ‘Da Bull’ from Kaduna to move over and they hardly ever saw eye to eye.
Powerhouses of Europe had also made inquiries for the former Ranchers Bees’ striker while at Club Brugge, but the lure of English football was too tempting to turn down for the bullish marksman. Italy’s AC Milan and Juventus were in the picture to grab him over to Serie A which was way highly competitive for African players then.
Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid also made inquiries for a move that would have made him the first African player ever to play for either of the two giant clubs.
Could his move to England have ended his once fledging career that would have been better appreciated at Europe’s best clubs?
No doubt, it would have been tough for Amokachi to break into the attacking lines of those great clubs, but his confidence and all-round ability may not have failed him.
The attack of these clubs boasted the most feared strikers in world football and breaking into the first team would take something extraordinary for Amokachi to stand up and be counted.
He would have also matured with time understudying these established stars had he been signed after all and with time could hold his own and go on to become the Africa’s best, perhaps.
Or could those wishes have been mere wishes and nothing serious?
Could the pedigree of his representatives not solid enough to convince the egg heads at Barcelona and et al to take a gamble with the young African?
His Goodison Park adventure wasn’t what he expected, but a lot seemed to have been taken away from him in terms of the drive to achieving successes at bigger European clubs despite leaving England with two medals – England FA Cup and Community Shield – hanging round his neck.
Could he have taken his game higher and on to greater things had Walker not walked and not courted Royle’s troubles?
“Amo Taxi” had to sell or lease his big black London taxis to move on to save his career after just one and half year into his three-year contract at Goodison Park.
Turkey welcomed him as the transfer markets there had just begun to boom with their rising investments on African stars to boost their league.
Besiktas had been off competitions from also the mainstream Europe to win the race for his signature.
By the time he left Besiktas in 1999, with the club’s Super League’s 2000th goal milestone record, Amokachi’s career was more or less over as knee injury wickedly put an abrupt end.
Attempts at 1860 Munich, Tranmere Rovers, France’s Creteil and MLS side Colorado Rapids to bounce back were met with no success.
That’s the sad end of the powerful striker, who was destined to the top only to be sidelined by injuries and bad fate.
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