This post highlights 5 historical moments in Nigerian sports. Nigeria is a sport-loving nation that has left its mark in the world of sports, both in Africa and in the world at large. Though the country’s success has waned in recent years with its last major success being Afcon triumph in 2013. But then, it has still recorded some major success over the years.
Below are the 5 historical moments in Nigerian sports
1. Nigeria’s first Olympic medal
In the summer of 1964 in Tokyo, Nigeria won its maiden Olympic medal. Nojim Maiyegun who was born in Lagos on 21 February 1944 won the bronze medal in the men’s Light middleweight (71kg) category. This gave the country its first-ever taste of a medal.Embed from Getty Images
2. Nigeria’s maiden gold medalEmbed from Getty Images
Chioma Ajunwa marked her name in Nigerian sports history when she became the first Nigerian to win an Olympic gold medal. She achieved this in the year 1996 through the long jump event with a high Benchmark of 7.12m. This was a score that was so high that it could not be bested by any other competitors in the event.
The lady, who is a police officer by profession was born on the 25th of December 1970. Her father died early as she was raised by her mother, and Chioma has been a keen participant in athletics.
3. Gold in Atlanta ’96Embed from Getty Images
This is the crème de la crème of Nigerian Sports as the country’s under 23 football team won the Olympics.
Nigeria is a football-loving nation and the Olympics has always been a highly rated competition in the world. After the Nigerian Dream Team led by Nwankwo Kanu and Jay-Jay Okocha qualified from the group stage. The team went on an amazing run by defeating Mexico 2-0 in the quarterfinals before facing Brazil in the semi-final.
The Nigerian Dream Team were the underdogs as they had played the Brazilians in the group stage and lost. Their task was not made easier with the stars paraded by the Brazilians which included Bebeto and Ronaldo, the Nigerians had no chance at all. This fact was confirmed when they were soon trailing 3-1 but the Dream team fought back to tie the game at 3-3. The Nigerian Team went on to win with a Kanu’s Golden Goal to set up a final with the Argentines.
Even though Nigeria defeated Argentina’s neighbor and rival, this did not change their status of being underdogs in the finals, considering that the South American team also had top stars within their ranks such as Hernan Crespo and Diego Simeone. But the Dream Team rose to the occasion with Emmanuel Amunike snatching the winner in stoppage time to win 3-2. The victory set off a widespread celebration all through the country and it was one of the best historical moments in Nigerian sports.
4. African Nations Cup win in 1980Embed from Getty Images
On March 22, 1980, the Green Eagles cemented their place in Nigerian sports history by winning the African Nations Cup. The competition was hosted by Nigeria with the final played at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos. The Green Eagles, described by the older generation as the best Nigerian senior team, achieved a 3-0 victory over Algeria.
The team which was being coached by Brazilian, Otto Gloria, counted on players like Segun Odegbami (Mathematical) and Christian Chukwu. They started their campaign with a 3-1 win over Tanzania, drew with Cote d’Ivoire, and defeated Egypt 1-0.
They went on to win the semi-final against Morocco before breezing past the Algerian Team in the final. This became the first of three African Cup of Nations trophies won by Nigeria.
5. Under 17 world championship title in 1985Embed from Getty Images
Nigeria is the country with the highest number of under 17 World Championship titles in the world. Their very first title was the maiden competition of the age group hosted in China. The team that won the trophy includes players such as, Billa Momoh, Jonathan Akpoborie, and Victor Igbinoba.
The Golden Eaglets were being coached by Sebastian Broderick Imasuen. The team romped to the title with victories over the likes of Italy, Guinea, and West Germany in the Final.
Their win catapulted Nigeria to the global scene when it comes to football. They were able to repeat this feat in the years 1993, 2007, 2013 and also successfully defended their title in 2015. This made them become the second team since Brazil to win the Fifa Under 17 World Cup back to back.