Home Africa REMINISCENCES: THE PROFESSIONALS: NIGERIAS GLORIOUS YEARS ON THE FOOTBALL PITCHES

REMINISCENCES: THE PROFESSIONALS: NIGERIAS GLORIOUS YEARS ON THE FOOTBALL PITCHES

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REMINISCENCES
THE PROFESSIONALS: NIGERIAS GLORIOUS YEARS ON THE FOOTBALL PITCHES
THE 1980 AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS FINALS
The 1957 African Cup of Nations competition commenced in 1957 and the final of the tournament was played for the first time in history in the Municipal Stadium, Khartoum, Sudan. In that edition, Egypt defeated Ethiopia (4-0) by four goals to nil. Egypt has since registered its name as the most constant winner, having won the football tournament for a record seven times in the tournaments history. Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria have also put up inspiring performances. with Ghana and Cameroon, also joined Egypt to win the cup for keeps by winning the soccer event and trophy on three occasions. The soccer contest that holds bi-annually, is organized by the Confederation of African Football. (CAF) The following nations have won the CAF soccer competition at different times.
1957 – Egypt
1959 – Egypt
1962 – Ethiopia
1963 – Ghana
1965 – Ghana
1968 – Congo-Kinshasa
1970 – Sudan
1972 – Congo
1974 – Zaire
1976 – Morocco
1978 – Ghana
1980 – Nigeria
1982 – Ghana
1984 – Cameroon
1986 – Egypt
1988 – Cameroon
1990 – Algeria
1992 – Ivory Coast
1994 – Nigeria
1996 – South Africa
1998 – Egypt
2000 – Cameroon
2002 – Cameroon
2004 – Tunisia
2006 – Egypt
2008 – Egypt
2010 – Egypt
2012 – Zambia
2013 – Nigeria
2015 Cote DIvoire
2017 – Cameroon

NIGERIAS EXPLOITS
Nigeria has won the African Cup of Nations soccer competition twice (1980 & 2013) and emerged runners-up three times and had one group stage elimination, between 1982 and 1990. The final of the 12th edition of the competition marked Nigerias moment of glory at the tournament determined in Lagos, Nigeria; in 1980, at the height of Nigerias Green Eagles popularity on a global scale. Coach Otto Gloria, a Brazilian took Nigeria to the finals of the African Cup of Nations competition in a dazzling performance that saw the Green Eagles defeating Algeria by 30 at the National Stadium, Lagos. That soccer event attracted 60,000 spectators in the stadium. The picture of the event is still very fresh in memory, as television viewers could see President Shehu Shagari jumping up in the VIP box with his tall trade mark cap, to celebrate the artistry of the Green Eagles (now Super Eagles) and goals scored by Nigeria.

It was one of the most glorious events recorded by the Green Eagles since Nigerias national team first toured the United Kingdom for friendly matches in 1949. Nigerias national team was first known as the Red Devils due to their red topped kits. The name: Green Eagles was adopted after Nigerias independence, to reflect the Green-While-Green flag and emblem on the nations Coat of Arms. In that United Kingdom outing, the Nigerian side played barefooted, without soccer boots. And it is to be noted that those very brilliant performances were put up by local footballers. They were A-rated footballers who could have relocated to foreign nations to play or join professional sides; but were contended with staying at home in Nigeria to make a difference. Nigerias economy was good at that period. The 1980 impressive performance earned the Green Eagles houses at FESTAC Village in Lagos, and a 504 Peugeot saloon car each; in what was recorded in soccer history, as the first time Nigerian footballers were generously compensated for their efforts.

CONTRIBUTORY FACTORS TO SUCCESS STORIES
There was nothing like zoning, quota, or federal character, in selecting those great footballers. Merit was the sole factor by Brazilian coach, Otto Gloria, in football encounters that promoted the unity of Nigeria. The National team was made up mostly of players from Enugu Rangers and IICC Shooting Stars, Ibadan, both with a total of nine‐regular players. The 1980 winning team of the Green Eagles defeated the Desert Warriors of Algeria 3-0 in the final, played inside the main bowl of the National Stadium Lagos.
The Golden Team comprised the following:
Best Ogedegbe – Goalkeeper
David Adiele – Defence
Christian Chukwu (Captain) Midfield Defence
Tunde Bamidele – Defender
Alloysius Atuegbu – Attacker
Godwin Odiye – Defence
Felix Owolabi – Midfield
Okey Isima – Defender
Segun Odegbami – Attacker
Mudashiru Babatunde Lawal – Midfielder
Adokiye Amiesimaka – Attacker

Reserve Bench:
Kadiri Ikhana
Moses Effiong
Emmanuel Okala
Sylvanus Okpala
Ifeanyi Onyedika
Martin Eyo
John Orlando
Shefiu Mohammed
Charles Bassey
Henry Nwosu
Franck Onwuachi

THE SUGGESTED REMEDY
Sports is part of politics. In some publications authored by Segun Odegbami, it was noted that preparations for soccer competitions were thorough, and this was a key factor that aided the Green Eagles in boosting Nigerias image through conquests of other nations by Nigerias national side. They were exposed to trainings or warm up encounters in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. The Green Eagles also went far in global competitions. Additionally, sports administration requires a critical look. Nigeria had the likes of Lekan Salami, MKO Abiola who was Pillar of Sports in Africa, Jim Nwobodo and Amos Adegoke who, with their sweats promoted the IICC Shooting Stars and the Rangers International FC of Enugu. These days, European clubs are the toasts of millions of people, including those in top positions in the public and private sectors; in what I have described as second colonization. Segun Odegbami told Thisday Newspaper that: After the Moscow Olympics in 1980, then arise some avoidable and unnecessary developments which started to rock that solid foundation and it all started with the unceremonious removal of Mr. Isaac Akioye as the director of sports at the National Sports Commission (NSC). He was the one with the training skills in sports that established the solid foundation; and around him he trained and hired people who were to sustain the development.

He continues: So, when he was removed in 1981 it created a crisis situation and those who took over from him, though tried to sustain what was on ground but the turnover of personnel in the administration of sports especially football in Nigeria became accelerated and it became more watery and by the time we got to the early 1990 it was so watered down, though the effect of that solid foundation was still strong to sustain sports development but by the 90s it became less in terms of human capacity. Though, we were still winning laurels but the fact remains that the administrators that came in thereafter did not have the original vision of the initial founders. And by the time we got to the late 1990 the new administrators that succeeded came in with their own shallow vision and so the quality of the game started to drop, so much so that we no longer could recognize the original foundation. There is no longer any connection between the original foundation and where we are now. We are just drifting; there is no clear vision and direction again.

THE FOOTBALL COMMENTATORS
Gone are the days of brilliant soccer commentators on radio and television, that made people create interest in soccer. Those were the days of Isola Folorunsho, Sebastine Effurum, Kevin Ejiofor, bombastic Ernest Okonkwo, Tolu Fatoyinbo, Fabio Lanipekun and Yinka Craig, who were moving encyclopaedia of soccer tournaments and would during commentaries recall how, when and when similar situations on the pitches were recorded in the past. Ernest Okonkwo would added colour to commentaries, describing hard and long kicks as bombastic intercontinental missile He created appellations, based on the strengths of players: Mathematical Segun Odegbami, (because of his calculated mesmerizing moves) Chairman Christian Chukwu (captain), Block-Buster Aloysius Atuegbu, (because he was stocky) Lanky Emmanuel Okala; Midfield Maestro, Mudashiru Babatunde Lawal; and Chief Justice Adokiye Amaesimeka, a lawyer who operated from the left flank. There were also Slow Poison Idowu Otubusin Caterpillar Kelechi Emetole and Quicksilver Sylvanus Okpala. I listened to a Ghanaian commentator warn, during a Nigeria-Ghana encounter that: look out for Segun Odegbami, he could score goals from an impossible angle. Few minutes later, Segun Odegbami nodded the ball to put it past the Ghanaian goalkeeper: inside the net! I remember Fabio Lanipekun coined the phrase: The Miracle of Daman (Saudi 89) when Nigerias Flying Eagles came from 4-0 down to win a football encounter against the Soviet Union. Even Baba E.A. Adeboye, busy as he is watched that soccer encounter

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