It has been 60 years to the day since Nigeria gained independence from Nice Britain, so on this Independence Day we glance again on the African large’s sporting triumphs.
‘Naija’ has had loads of alternatives to determine a foothold in international sport, and whereas it has not at all times been as profitable as anticipated, a rustic of almost 200 million peoplehas had a lot to rejoice.
Listed here are six of one of the best.
1. Gold in Atlanta
By far essentially the most seminal second in Nigeria’s sporting historical past has received to be profitable the Olympic gold medal in soccer in 1996.
The Olympics are the top of competitors for any athlete, and soccer is Nigeria’s main sport. As well as, the Olympic soccer event is only one tier under the FIFA World Cup as essentially the most prestigious international event.
So when Nwankwo Kanu led a group of gifted younger Nigerians to the USA in 1996, expectations had been excessive for the group that had been nicknamed the “Dream Staff” for the standard of the squad.
It was composed of gamers who had excelled on the World Cup two years earlier, along with one of the best expertise from the Underneath 17 World Cup-winning squad of 1993.
A forgettable group part, the place the Nigerians, together with two others [Brazil and Japan] completed on six factors every and wanted to be separated by targets distinction, was adopted by a convincing 2-Zero win over Mexico within the quarter finals.
And that was when the magic began. Brazil, who the Nigerians had misplaced to within the group part, had been the semifinal opposition. After trailing 3-1 to a group that included World Cup winner Bebeto and the rising phenomenon Ronaldo da Lima, the Dream Staff stormed again to tie the sport 3-Three after which received it in essentially the most dramatic circumstances, with Kanu himself scoring the Golden Purpose in further time.
The ultimate was much more magical. Argentina, once more chock filled with stars, together with Hernan Crespo, Ariel Ortega, Diego Simeone, and Claudio Lopez, raced to a 2-1 lead. However Daniel Amokachi tied issues up with a couple of quarter of an hour left to play, and Emmnuel Amunike snatched the winner in stoppage time.
Nigeria had received Africa’s first Olympic gold medal in soccer, sparking celebrations throughout the nation and continent.
2. Chioma Ajunwa’s lengthy soar gold medal
Multi-talented Chioma Ajunwa and her Olympic gold medal soar occupy a particular place in Nigerian sporting historical past.
When she received that lengthy soar gold medal on the 1996 Olympics, she turned the primary Nigerian, and first Black African girl, to win Olympic gold in a area occasion. She can be the primary, and up to now solely, particular person to have been at a FIFA World Cup and in addition the Olympic Video games for 3 totally different sports activities [football, long jump, 100m].
Whereas her accomplishment was considerably overshadowed by the lads’s soccer group profitable their very own gold medal a number of days later, it by no means detracts from her historic efforts.
And to assume that Ajunwa didn’t even understand that she had been entered for the lengthy soar till she received to Atlanta.
She’d performed soccer with the Tremendous Falcons, a part of the squad on the inaugural FIFA Ladies’s World Cup in 1991.
However she then crossed over to athletics, hoping to win a medal within the 100m. Ajunwa travelled to Atlanta unheralded and trailed by the stain of a drug ban.
However Nigeria legend Segun Odegbami, himself a former Olympian, had taken her underneath his wing, invested in her coaching and gave the impression to be the one one who believed in her capacity to trigger a stir.
Ajunwa missed the 100m Ultimate by a whisker after ending tied for fourth, however eradicated in a photograph end.
And so she was entered into the lengthy soar with subsequent to no expectations upon her. Her qualifying soar was a formidable 6.81m to position second, and into the Ultimate.
Within the Ultimate the following day, she regarded like she had ice in her veins and her very first soar was a hovering 7.12m, an unexpectedly excessive benchmark to beat. Neither her, nor any of her rivals may match it, and Ajunwa had received Nigeria’s first Olympic gold medal and Africa’s first in a area occasion.
3. Dick Tiger’s world title win
In August 1963, Nigeria hosted the primary ever boxing world title occasion on the continent exterior of the then-apartheid South Africa.
It was the final of a trilogy of fights between Nigeria’s Richard “Dick Tiger” Ihetu and Gene Fullman, the person from whom he had snatched the crown virtually a yr earlier.
A rustic that was recovering from the devastating results of a civil struggle, united in assist of their very own, as he sought to defend his title for a second time towards the identical man.
Tiger had earned the appropriate to problem Fullmer, the then-WBA middleweight champion, after making quick work of Florentino Fernandez through a devastating knockout earlier than claiming a win through determination towards Henry Hank.
These two fights had been his ticket into the American boxing scene after years preventing in Nigeria, after which in England the place he had received the British Commonwealth middleweight title.
Within the first of the trilogy, Tiger received a gruelling determination towards the champion, counterpunching aggressively towards a dynamic brawler with a seemingly limitless capacity to soak up punishment.
On the finish of a draining and bloody 15 rounds, Tiger received the choice to grow to be world champion, Nigeria and Africa’s first ever boxing world champion.
4 months later, they had been again within the ring for a rematch. One other punishing encounter led to a draw. Dick Tiger saved his belt and arrange a decider, which was taken to Nigeria.
Fullmer’s two fights towards Dick Tiger had made him a family identify in Nigeria regardless of his defeat, and he was given a rousing welcome as he made his ring stroll.
However the electrical ambiance on the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan was all for the native lad, who then proceeded to dominate his adversary in a efficiency that left little question who one of the best man was. By the tip of spherical seven, Fullman’s nook had had sufficient and beckoned to the referee to name the combat.
Because the referee raised Tiger’s arms in victory, prompt pandemonium broke out within the stadium that took about half an hour for police to clear.
Fullman retired after that combat, Dick Tiger went on to defend his title, moved on to gentle heavyweight and have become the primary of solely two Africans [Ghana’s Azumah Nelson the other] to be inducted into the Worldwide Boxing Corridor of Fame.
4. Silver to gold within the 4×400 relay
In 2012, Nigeria’s 4x400m relay group had been awarded the Olympic gold medal for a race that they had run 12 years earlier in Sydney, Australia.
Few may argue that they deserved it, after American Antonio Pettigrew’s confession of getting used performance-enhancing medicine led to the disqualification of Staff USA, who had received the preliminary gold medal.
Nevertheless it was not a lot concerning the medal, however the nerve tingling last leg of the race anchored by teen Enefiok Udobong that seared the reminiscence of that second within the hearts of Nigerians without end.
Going into the ultimate leg, Nigeria had been in fourth place behind the USA, the Bahamas and Jamaica as captain Sunday Bada handed the baton to Udobong, an 18-year-old who was competing exterior Africa for the primary time.
Udobong took the baton, and streaked off on what was to be a race for the ages. Operating with expertise past his years, Udobong took the inside lane, and began to achieve on the runners forward of him.
Watching at house, Nigerians may virtually really feel the trouble as he strained each sinew, flew previous the Bahamian, after which, virtually on the final, stretched his well past the Jamaican.
Unexpectedly, from no-hopers, the Nigerians had claimed silver. It proved to be the excessive level of these Video games for Nigeria, and an inspiration for generations to return.
5. African Nations Cup win in 1980
Regardless of being typically accepted as considered one of Africa’s extra gifted sides, Nigeria had not received the Nations Cup [now called the Africa Cup of Nations] previous to 1980.
In 1977, two Nigerian membership sides, Enugu Rangers and IICC Taking pictures Stars, competed towards one another within the CAF Cup Winners Cup semifinals, bringing the nation to a standstill with a parade of among the finest gamers on the continent.
Nonetheless, the nationwide group, which featured a lot of those self same gamers, didn’t win the premier African title. All of that was to alter three years later.
With a mixture of the gamers from these rival golf equipment, Nigeria hosted the event with the clear objective of proving they had been Africa’s finest group. By the point the ultimate rolled round, the Inexperienced Eagles routed Algeria 3-Zero to assert their first ever African title, with gamers like Segun Odegbami, Adokiye Amiesimaka, Christian Chukwu, Emmanuel Okala, Musa Lawal, Aloysius Atuegbu, and extra turning into family names. That title win catapulted Nigeria from additionally rans to one of many elites on the continent and set the stage for future groups to earn respect. They received the title once more in 1994 and 2013. 6. Underneath 17 World Championship title Whereas the 1980 Nations Cup win put Nigeria on the trail to respect on the continent, the primary international soccer triumph of be aware occurred 5 years later, in faraway China. There, a bunch of schoolboys, who had left the nation with little fanfare, proceeded to play some scintillating soccer and ended up profitable the inaugural FIFA Underneath 17 World Championship, beating Germany 2-Zero within the last. It was a life altering second, not only for these gamers, however for the nation and the continent as an entire. Nigeria would go on to win 4 extra Underneath 16 world titles, together with again to again in 2013 and 2015, and have been runners up 3 times as effectively.
With a mixture of the gamers from these rival golf equipment, Nigeria hosted the event with the clear objective of proving they had been Africa’s finest group.
By the point the ultimate rolled round, the Inexperienced Eagles routed Algeria 3-Zero to assert their first ever African title, with gamers like Segun Odegbami, Adokiye Amiesimaka, Christian Chukwu, Emmanuel Okala, Musa Lawal, Aloysius Atuegbu, and extra turning into family names.
That title win catapulted Nigeria from additionally rans to one of many elites on the continent and set the stage for future groups to earn respect. They received the title once more in 1994 and 2013.
6. Underneath 17 World Championship title
Whereas the 1980 Nations Cup win put Nigeria on the trail to respect on the continent, the primary international soccer triumph of be aware occurred 5 years later, in faraway China.
There, a bunch of schoolboys, who had left the nation with little fanfare, proceeded to play some scintillating soccer and ended up profitable the inaugural FIFA Underneath 17 World Championship, beating Germany 2-Zero within the last.
It was a life altering second, not only for these gamers, however for the nation and the continent as an entire.
Nigeria would go on to win 4 extra Underneath 16 world titles, together with again to again in 2013 and 2015, and have been runners up 3 times as effectively.