A football agent, Henry Galliano, wasÂ on MondayÂ evening assaulted by a Nigerian coach,Â Emmanuel Amuneke, at theÂ Rockview Hotel, Owerri, the Imo State capital.
The assault, which happened at aboutÂ 6:00 p.m.Â was caused by the decision of Golden Eaglets star, Kelechi Iheanacho, to choose Galliano as his agent ahead of one recommended by Amuneke.
As agent, Galliano would be responsible for arranging club transfer deals for Iheanacho, a member of the world-conquering Golden Eaglets.
Iheanacho was selected by FIFA as the best player of the just-concludedÂ FIFA U17 World Cup in the UAE. He has since been linked to top European clubs including FC Porto andÂ Manchester City.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Iheanacho has signed an agent deal officially with Galliano with a copy of the agreement sent to the secretariat of theÂ Nigeria Football Federation, NFF.Â Â The agent also confirmed that a copy of the agreement with Iheanacho was submitted to the NFF on October 21.
In a chat with PREMIUM TIMES, Galliano and his Nigerian partner, Solomon Oluwaseun, accused Amuneke of assault; and threatened to press charges against him.
They said the coach invited them for a meeting before he got angry, saying that his (Amunekeâ€™s chosen) agent must be the one to handle Iheanachoâ€™s transfer.
â€œThe coach invited us, we went to see him and he started threatening Kelechi that he should follow him to Abuja to sign with his agent who is working with a Nasiru Jubril, a staff of the NFF; or else Nasiru, the man in charge of the ITC (International Transfer Certificate), will not release kelechiâ€™s ITC to him and they will both make sure that he is banned from Nigeria football; also he will not get a good club.
â€œWhen the agent tried to talk back, the coach slapped him and beat him up in the presence of over 25 people,â€ Solomon said.
In his comment, Galliano said he only came to Nigeria to take Iheanacho abroad for club engagement; and he didnâ€™t know why the coach threatened him.
â€œI came here to take Kelechi to his club. FC Porto and Manchester City are interested in him but Manchester City has a better package. This was our discussion and conclusion when Mr. Amuneke sent for me, and asked me to go back to my cousin.
â€œHe called me names, beat me up and embarrassed me, he said itâ€™s impossible to just take his players,â€ Galliano said while accusing Amuneke of racial statements.
Galliano, an American, said Amuneke ordered Iheanacho to follow him to Abuja and also threatened him; which made the boy to burst into tears and went away.
â€œKelechi is nowhere to be found, he started crying after the threat made against him, the small boy is afraid and I hope he will not lose hope.
â€œAmuneke said he will delay his ITC and deal with him, he called vulgar words, cursing the boys and the players,â€ he said.
PREMIUM TIMES tried to speak to Iheanacho, but his phone was switched off. His father, when contacted, declined comment.
Amuneke, a Nations Cup winner in 1994 with the Super Eagles, and current assistant coach of the Golden Eaglets, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that he assaulted the American.
When contacted on phone, an angry Amuneke confirmed that he slapped Galliano. He threatened to beat him up again whenever he sees him.
He, however, denied being involved in the playerâ€™s possible transfer.
â€œYes, of course I slapped him very well and I will do it again whenever I see him,â€ Amuneke said.
â€œHe is an idiot, useless white man, he wants to come and reap where he didnâ€™t sow.
â€œKelechi is a nobody; yes, I said we helped him into the team, made him, moulded him into what he is today, he shouldnâ€™t allow anybody to fool him,â€ the former winger said.
When asked the reason for his action and his rumoured roles in Kelechi and other players transfer business, Amuneke said, â€œI care so much for my players, I am a coach.â€
â€œIâ€™m not an agent but I just look out for the boys. He wants to come and sign a player just like that, heâ€™s an idiot, I will not allow him.
â€œBecause the boyâ€™s parents are poor and illiterate, he wants to use them. We are Nigerians and weâ€™re not foolish,â€ he added.
Despite Amunekeâ€™s denial, the shady involvement of Nigerian coaches and football officials in the transfer of players to foreign clubs is something muted and known by close observers of Nigerian football.
A football website, Goal.com, recently revealed that Super Eagles midfielder,Â SundayÂ Mbaâ€™s move to a French club, was scuttled because of the financial demands and involvement of Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi, and some officials of the NFF. Mba had been unveiled by the French club, Bastia, before he was forced to return to Nigeria.
The NFF also recently suspended a former Secretary General of the Federation, Taiwo Ogunjobi, over the latterâ€™s alleged involvement in the transfer of a Flying Eagles forward, Olanrewaju Kayode.