Today, this much beloved country of ours turns 59 years old and it has no doubt been a story of ups and downs, a journey of bends and straights and several moments of joy and tears.
There have been days when the country’s national teams upset the odds to beat more fancied foes. There have been players whose talents and wizardry have left the world of football gasping for their breaths. And there have been times when we have conquered the world.
Soccernet Nigeria brings you the ten most unforgettable moments for followers of the beautiful game in Nigeria since independence was gained almost six decades ago.
To win against Brazil was splendid. To do so in a seven-goal thriller, having been two goals behind for over 50 per cent of the tie was surreal.
Nigeria had arrived at the Olympics without much hype and fanfare. The country’s team for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta contained a few players from that ill-fated 1994 World Cup campaign in conjunction with a clutch of talent drawn from the U-17 side that had won the World Cup in 1993 and it was from that crop that a legend was born: Nwankwo Kanu.
Kanu and co were not spectacular in the group stage, managing to win two games, scored three goals, and picked up six points. It hadn’t been pretty, or particularly explosive, but it had been efficient.
Making it to the semifinal to face Brazil again – the Samba Boys had already beaten Nigeria in the group stage – was in itself a great achievement but the Nigerian lads wanted more.
Brazil raced to a 3-1 lead but Jo Bonfere’s men never gave up hope nor stopped believing and late in the game parity was restored before Nwankwo Kanu provided that moment sheer magic to sweep a golden goal home and Nigeria the ticket to move their first-ever gold medal match in history.