A report from Nigerian Newspaper This Day concerning My People FC’s Sani Emmanuel, currently featuring for Nigeria’s Flying Eagles at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Columbia:
One of the top stars of Nigeria’s silver performance at the 2009 FIFA Under17 World Cup was Sani Emmanuel. Emmanuel was the striker that sported the number 14 jersey in that tournament; the super sub that was pulling Nigeria out of difficult situations in almost all the matches. He ended up scoring five goals in just his 221 minutes of play to win the FIFA U-17 Adidas Golden Ball as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and also won the Adidas Silver Shoe as the second highest goal scorer of the championship!
Like all the top-notch players of the Under-17 team, the new coach of the Under 20 team; the Flying Eagles, John Obuh, on his promotion from the Under-17 team, graduated Emmanuel to his new level. Emmanuel is now with him in Colombia on the team’s expedition at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup Finals. In the opening match of the team against Guatemala on Sunday, he came on as a second half substitute and had a memorable match in the team’s 5-0 annihilation of the North American side.
Emmanuel reviews here his life in the game, his beginning and his hopes.
“My father did not support me when I started playing football. In fact I was not even living with my parents. I was actually leaving with friends because we were very poor. I shunned school for football because that was the only thing after my heart and the only thing that brought me success and happiness. I had no other desire in my heart than play football. The other sport I love is table tennis and I think I would have been successful at that sport if had not taken to football. However, I must say my nomenclature in the game started changing for the better after the ‘Man of God and my father in the Lord’, Prophet T.B Joshua, discovered me and begun showing interest in my sporting career. His efforts since have helped to propel me to where I am today. I will therefore be forever grateful to him. He was instrumental to all the trials I attended before my friend Onazi (Ogenyi), and I, got our contracts with SS Lazio of Italy.
“After the last U-17 World Cup, I continued to train the usual way I do – hard and regularly. I also went to several trials with clubs. One of the clubs I had trials with; together with my bosom friend Onazi Ogenyi was Lazio in Italy. Luckily, we faired well at that trial and were offered contracts.
“We were both not at the Africa Youth Championship that took place in South Africa because the letter of invitation go to us very late. And when it arrived, it was in the middle of an important period as far as matches were concerned, for the club. Although I wanted so much to play in the tournament but it wasn’t possible so I would say I really missed it. It was a chance to add something to my collection of silverware, but it did not come to be. So I would say not taking part in the South Africa expedition was my loss.
“I was only able to see the opening and the final matches of Nigeria at the African Championship on teevee. So, I cannot say now how tough the team had it or how easy at the tournament. But from the two matches, I knew the Under-20 team were as good as the Under-17 team that got to the world final in Abuja. However now, that was then and this is Colombia and we have to work hard to emulate the old success.
“After the kind of preparation we had coming here to Colombia, I am full of confidence that we can go all the way. As for me personally, I have been training very hard to be in good shape and very fit for the tournament. I am sure I will be making the team and that every time I play, I will not disappoint both the coach and myself. Well, if I must add, I hope will are there on the final day, lifting up the cup.
“I am happy to have been offered a good contract at Lazio. We all know the Serie A is one of the top three leagues of the world in both toughness and talent. I shouldn’t feel any loneliness at Lazio as I have lots of people that would help to make my time here memorable. For instance, there were four Nigerians in the team, with only Ayodele Makinwa playing in the first team. But Makinwa has now gone on loan so we have three Nigerians left three left in the club while the third person is Emeka. But with the way things are going now I believe at least two of us will graduate to the first team by the start of the 2011-2012 season.
“Before Lazio offered me a contract, I had trials in London with Jon Obi Mikel’s Chelsea and with Tottenham Hotspur. I also had trals with Young Boys of Switzerland and Panathinaikos of Greece.
“Some people have expressed their surprise that it took me so long to get a club. But I must say when you team up with the Man of God at the Synagogue (Prophet T.B Joshua), you have a special person behind you. He not only wanted the best for us but what he told Onazi and I was that he wanted us to feel the European style, experience it well before we lace up professionally for any club. So, the original object was not for us to just get a club in Europe, but to first experience it and know how it works. In this, he was ready to fund the waiting period and our learning curve. He has been wonderful to us. Now, finally we have a contract with a big club.
“I hope by the grace of God that I will be able to break into the first team this season. Everyone at the club is waiting for the coach to name his first team squad. The good thing is that Onazi and I have been training with the first team. I sincerely hope we make the grade at the end of the day. Everyone knows how good the Italian league is and that to make the grade into the first team of a Serie A club, one has to be good and then work hard. We are training hard to make it.”
SOURCE: This Day