Afcon: Amuneke: Egyptians will support Tanzania because Cairo is my second home

Emmanuel Amuneke Tanzania coach
The Nigerian tactician flourished during his playing days in the North African country and he is hopeful they will cheer his side on his return

Tanzania coach Emmanuel Amuneke is banking on the support of the 2019 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) hosts, Egypt.

The 48-year-old thrived while playing for Cairo-based team Zamalek between 1991-1994, helping them to win two consecutive league titles in 1992 and 1993 before departing to join Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon.

The former Nigeria international also won the 1994 African Player of the Year while playing for the White Knights.

Amuneke will be leading the Taifa Stars to their second continental appearance in the North African country, having last featured in the finals in 1980 and he is optimistic of his side’s success.

“I am really glad to be coming back here (Cairo) because this is like a second home to me. I made great memories here,” Amuneke told the Caf website.

“Egyptians will definitely come to support me but our objective is to prepare well because even if they support you but we don’t do the right thing on the pitch it will have no meaning. But it will be good to enjoy the support from the local fans."

After leading the Nigeria U17 team to win the 2015 U17 World Cup in Chile, Amuneke went on to manage Sudanese club Al Khartoum before his appointment as Tanzania’s coach in August 2018.

The Nigerian tactician helped the East African country to qualify for their first African tournament in 39 years, defeating Uganda in Dar es Salaam on the final day to clinch second spot in Group L.

He spoke about the difficulty of achieving the feat, having started the qualifiers unimpressively, failing to win their opening three games, including a 3-0 defeat to Cape Verde in the first leg.

“It was a very tough qualification and having not started well, we had to work hard in the last bit. We did our homework and I am glad that we achieved. I have a very good team and I have no doubt that we can do well.”

In Egypt, Tanzania have been drawn along with West African powerhouse Senegal, neighbours Kenya and Algeria in Group C.

“It’s a good draw. We have to be realistic. All teams who made it here are all good and no team came here without fighting. If you are here, you must be ready to play anyone. You can’t wish for an easy group. All 24 teams are tough,” he added.

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“Kenya and Tanzania are like brothers. There is a lot of mutual respect between Kenya and Tanzania and I know we will play some good football and showcase East African football to the rest of the world.

“This is the first time that four nations from East Africa have qualified for the Afcon and it shows that football in the region is growing. I am hoping we all can do well.

Tanzania open their campaign in the biennial tournament against the Terenga Lions on Sunday, June 23.