Former Super Eagles attacker, John Utaka, has shared his ambitions of becoming the first African manager to win the UEFA Champions League.
John Utaka, one of the few players who represented the Nigeria national football team, aka Super Eagles, with his sibling, is looking to bring even more glory to the nation as a manager.
Utaka made this known in a recent interview with DeutscheWelle (DW) as he and Ghanaian football icon Michael Essien spoke with the German outlet on their coaching dreams.
John Utaka as a coach
John Utaka retired from football in 2018 after a season with French third-division club CS Sedan Ardennes.
The 41-year-old played football on three continents, including Africa, where he played for Enugu Rangers of the Nigerian Professional Football League. He had stints in Egypt before moving to Al-Sadd in Qatar, where he spent one season before moving to French club RC Lens for his first stint in Europe.
He would have stints in Turkey and England before going back to Africa to play for Egyptian clubs and eventually retiring in France with Sedan.
The former Montpellier man would start up his football academy after his retirement, and his work with grassroots footballers attracted the attention of his former side, where he would be hired to coach their under-19 team in 2020. In 2022, he would obtain his UEFA A coaching licences which officially allowed him to take up coaching roles in European teams.
He is now working towards his UEFA Pro badge, which will make him a top-tier manager in European football eligible to be the head coach of first teams. Like Essien, he is enjoying nurturing young players and doing his best for his lads back home in Minna, Nigeria, using his European experience.
He also has his sights set on managing a European club soon as he looks to build the experience needed to achieve his main goal.
What has been said
Utaka never played in the UEFA Champions League as a player and mentioned to DW that he is determined to participate in and win those competitions as a manager.
“If the opportunity comes to coach a team in Europe, I will embrace it,” Utaka told DW. “My dream is to win the trophies that I didn’t win as a player. I want to win them as a coach. We’ve never had an African coach win the Champions League. That is a goal for me.”
Utaka's goals are lofty because African coaches do not have as many opportunities as others in European football.
Despite the sport being lowly-rated in the United States of America, thanks to other sports like Basketball, Baseball, Athletics and Football, they have had success exporting coaches and managers to European clubs.
The last African manager to make it to a moderately sized European club was former Nigeria national football team captain Sunday Oliseh, who was the head coach of Eredivisie club Fortuna Sittard.
In 2020, Africa had its first coach win a trophy in Europe. Former Super Eagles goalkeeper Emmanuel Egbo led FK Tirana to the league title in Albania. Utaka will see these two as inspiration to keep going and achieve his goal.
“It is all about being consistent. You keep learning and keep pushing and put everything in it. It is a team sport, and you need people to push you and recommend you,” he added.
This article was most recently revised and updated 10 months ago