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I lost Ballon d’Or award because I played for Nigeria, says Amuneke

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Former Super Eagles’ stars, Emmanuel Amuneke (left), Finidi George and Mutiu Adepoju, who played in the Laliga in the 1990s and early 2000s, were at the launch of the Laliga Lagos office…at the weekend

Former Super Eagles’ winger, Emmanuel Amuneke has revealed that he was denied the opportunity of winning the prestigious World Footballer of the year award because he plied his soccer trade as a Nigerian.

“I usually tell some of my friends that if I had started my football career as a European player, maybe, I would have won the World Footballer of the year award.

Unfortunately, I started from Nigeria and only God knows why,” Amuneke said at the weekend during the unveiling of LaLiga Nigerian office in Lagos.

The event, which took place at the Radisson Blu Hotel in GRA, Ikeja, also highlighted the various projects LaLiga had undertaken since its inception in Nigeria.

The LaLiga office in Nigeria was launched in Abuja in 2016, in a signed partnership with Legacy Sports.

It is designed to bring LaLiga closer to its Nigerian fans, and to generate more awareness around the other clubs in LaLiga.

Three former Super Eagles stars, who played in the LaLiga, Amuneke, Finidi George and Mutiu Adepoju, were present at the ceremony.

Amuneke, who was crowned as African Footballer of the year in 1994 after helping Nigeria to win the African Nations Cup trophy at Tunisia ‘94, was bought by La Liga giants, FC Barcelona, for $3.6 million in1996.

Though Amuneke did not speak much on his ‘missed’ Balon d’Or opportunity, he started that he enjoyed every bit of his playing career in the LaLiga despite the fact that his spell in Catalonia was cut short in the 1997 off-season after he suffered a serious knee injury.

Amuneke played 27 matches for Nigeria, scoring nine goals. He was part of Super Eagles team to USA ’94 World Cup, and scored against Bulgaria in the 3–0 group stage win and against Italy 1–2 round-of-16 defeat.

He applauded the decision by LaLiga to have offices in Nigeria, saying: “We have to make good use of this opportunity to develop our football. One thing is for people to have dream and another is to have plans. Dream without plan is just an illusion.”

LaLiga delegate in Nigeria, Javier Del Rio, said: “We (LaLiga) are very proud to be in Nigeria, and to be much closer to the fans.

We believe Nigeria is a significant market for the growth of our brand, and we are highly committed to the development of football in this country, paying close attention to its grassroots football as demonstrated through the five-day LaLiga-NPFL Coaching Clinic for Nigerian youth coaches earlier this year at the National Stadium in Abuja.

“We plan to host more of these type of activations, and this is just the beginning of greater things to come between LaLiga and Nigeria.”

Also speaking, LaLiga ambassador, and former LaLiga star, Adepoju, said: “As the LaLiga ambassador, growing the LaLiga brand in Nigeria has always been my primary objective.

I am excited about the prospect of Nigerian fans being closer to LaLiga and its clubs, as there is an array of Nigerian talent plying their trade in the Spanish top flight.

I believe that LaLiga’s presence in Nigeria will ultimately further strengthen ties between Nigeria and LaLiga.”


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