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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 February 2005, 13:52 GMT
Return of the Nigerian bull
Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

No matter how hard I try, football still lives inside of me
Daniel Amokachi

Former Everton striker Daniel Amokachi made headlines over the weekend when he made his Nigerian league comeback for Nassarawa United.

Despite his team's 3-1 loss to Shooting Stars in the opening weekend of the championship, the man known as 'The Bull' could not hide his delight about playing once again.

"It was an electrifying moment in Ibadan," he told BBC Sport.

"The fans went wild, which shows I still have a special place in their hearts," said the former Nigeria international, whose impressive club career in Europe was cut short by injury.

The striker, who also played for Belgium's Club Brugge and Turkey's Besiktas, returned to his roots after a 15-year absence.

He began his football education under the tutelage of Argentine coach Alex Dominguez, who managed the defunct Ranchers Bees of Kaduna in the late 1980's.

Now 32, Amokachi was a 16-year-old secondary school student at Government College Kaduna when he made his league debut for Ranchers.

He admits the Nigerian scene has changed since he last featured in it but says his desire to make his mark is still there.

"I don't think I can ever get away from football. No matter how hard I try, football still lives inside of me," said Amokachi, who doubles as a coach for Nassarawa.

The decision to go into management has surprised pundits, as he had vowed to walk away from the pitch after his playing career was over.

But he said the structure at Nassarawa helped change his mind.

"Certain things happen in football that change your plans and that was what happened in my case.

"After I finished my coaching course in Holland, I got two offers from two clubs.

"But they weren't concrete, so I decided to come back home and start with an unknown club, where the pressure is less."

Political influence

Abdullahi Adamu, governor of Nassarawa state in northern Nigeria, which finances the club, was instrumental to Amokachi's arrival.

"I have a good relationship with the governor, which started when I brought in stars to play a football match during his election campaign.

"He was impressed and offered me a coaching job but I told him I wasn't a qualified coach.

"But when I got back from Amsterdam, I booked an appointment with him and that was how I became a coach here."

A Super Eagle he may no longer be, but his passion for the national team, with whom he won the 1994 African Cup of Nations and a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, remains.

He is confident Nigeria will make their fourth consecutive appearance at the World Cup finals, despite losing the leadership of their qualifying group to Angola.

"Angola is no threat. We have a crop of talented players who are all doing very well for their respective clubs.

"But the FA should organize things to help compliment the effort of their efforts."

Although 'The Bull' only managed 15 minutes of action in his team's league opener against Shooting Stars in Ibadan, he hopes to be fit enough to fully feature in subsequent games.

"I played the last 15 minutes of the game but we'll see how things go, as long as my body can carry on.

"I have an ambition to coach at the highest level but I will do my best on and off the pitch to make Nassarawa the best team in the land."

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