50 Golden Moments of Nigeria’s Sport
Still talking brand football, a dominant Super Eagles on April 10, 1994, became African Champions again, beating Zambia 2-1 in the final match in Tunis in that year’s edition of the African Cup of Nations. Not done yet, and in June 21, 1994, Nigeria makes a spectacular debut in the World Cup, beating Bulgaria 3-0, and registering key wins thereafter in the Group matches to qualify for the second round of the 1994 World Cup USA Club football honours receives more boost as Bendel Insurance win the CAF Cup for Nigeria in December 4, 1994.
In July 29, 1996 Track and Field came knocking again. This time, Falilat Ogunkoya became Nigeria’s first individual woman Olympic medallist when she won bronze medal in 400 metres at the Atlanta Olympics. Nigeria’s best individual performance arguably came in August 2, 1996. Chioma Ajunwa produced an amazing first round leap of 7.12m in the Long Jump event to become Nigeria’s first Olympic medallist. Same Olympic and in August 3, 1996, the Nigerian quartet of Falilat Ogunkoya, Fatima Yusuf, Christy Opara and Bisi Afolabi won the silver medal in 4x400m relay for Women. Football did the ultimate at the Atlanta Olympics when on August 3, 1996, Nigeria won the gold medal of the football event. It is the first time a team outside Europe will do that in 68 years. And that also put an end to Europe’s successive victory and dominance. Since then no European team has won the football gold medal. Boxing was not left of the Atlanta Olympic medal haul. Duncan Dokiwari won a bronze medal in the super heavyweight category of boxing.
Golden moments went quiet until September 27, 2000 when Glory Alozie won the silver medal for Nigeria in women’s 100 hurdles at the Sydney Olympics. Nigeria won the silver medal in the men’s 4×400 relay at the Sydney Olympics and the women the bronze medal in the women’s 4×400 relay at the Sydney Olympics on September 30.
Nigerian football clubs came back strongly in December 12, 2003 when Enyimba won CAF Champions League. It is the first time a Nigerian side will do so since the continent’s premier club competition began in 1964. Enyimba went on to win the Super Cup for the first time for Nigeria too. Great Nigerian clubs, Stationery Stores FC, Enugu Rangers International, Bendel Insurance FC all tried but for them it was a bridge too far.
August 27, 2004, Nigeria won the bronze medal in the men’s 4 x 400 relay. Track and Field was always a great hunting ground as Nigeria won the bronze medal in the men’s 4×100 relay at the Athens Olympics August 28, 2004.
More history is made December 12, 2004. Enyimba became the first side to win the Champions’ League back-to-back and the first time a team to successfully defend the African title in 36 years.
September 9, 2007, Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets came calling, beating Spain, 3-0 (pens) in the final to win the FIFA Under -17 World Cup in Korea. And the big boxing news and glory came March 8, 2008 Nigeria’s Samuel Peters beat Oleg Maskaev in Cancun, Mexico to become the WBC champion.
Nigeria’s Track and field strengths showed again in August 21, 2008 when Nigeria won the bronze medal in the women’s 4×100 relay at the Beijing Olympics.
Boxing had been doing it for Nigeria in combat sport, but come August 21, 2008, Chika Chukwumerije won a bronze for Nigeria in the men’s heavyweight category of taekwondo at the Beijing Games. As usual Track and Field made it a must win in August 22, 2008 when Blessing Okagbare won a bronze medal for Nigeria in women’s Long jump.
Football made another impressive outing in August 23, 2008 winning the silver medal in the men’s football event of Beijing Olympics. Nigeria’s sport honours roll-call appears dominated by women in the last decade August 1, 2010, Nigeria’s Falconets emerged the runners-up in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Germany losing the final match 2-0 to the hosts, Germany. It was the best performance by an African side at the tournament.
These special moments sign post the exploits, sacrifices of Nigeria’s sportsmen and women in 50 years creating respect, bonding among citizens of this great country and acclaim from the international community.