The chronicles of Super Eagles: A travel back in time

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Safiu Kehinde

If there is one legacy that never died after the departure of the British colonial masters from Nigeria, that legacy will be football. It went from a mere colonial game to a national heritage that has been passed from generation to generation. It becomes a stronghold of national unity amid our diversity and ethnic differences. With passion boiling in our hearts, we forget our differences as we sit side by side — Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba — jubilating every goal and savoring every moment while watching our beloved Super Eagles in action.

As we begin our 19th AFCON campaign with a comfortable win against The Pharaohs of Egypt, Blackbox Nigeria takes you down memory lane.

The origin of the Super Eagles can be traced back to the early 20th century when Nigeria became a colony under Britain. As part of their Westernization agenda, the colonial masters came along with their games which included cricket, polo, football, and other sports. Among all these sports, however, football became the most embraced across the nation. It became a national language as well as tool for nationalist movements. According to Dr. Wiebe Boer’s book titled ‘The History of Football in Nigeria: A Story of Heroes and Epics (1094 to 1960)’, the first recorded Nigerian match was played at Calabar City in June 15, 1904.

Subsequently, the Nigeria’s national team started growing to become a power house of football in Africa. They played their first official game in 1949 against some amateur teams in Liverpool. The most fascinating thing about the pioneer of Super Eagles who played against Marine Crosby was the fact that they played barefooted. The spectators and Marine Crosby players were surprised by the team of barefooted players. At the end of the match which Nigeria won by five goals, Marine Crosby’s captain, Len Carney, could not hide his amusement. “We soon found their feet were harder than our boots,” the captain admitted. Notable among the Nigerian players was Dokubo who was the only one with a lightly soled canvas shoe. The team was captained by Etim Henshaw who stood behind after the team’s tour at Liverpool.

Following the country’s independence, the Nigerian side continued their blistering performance in the world of football. They hosted the 1973 All-African Games in Lagos and bagged gold. They finished third in 1976 and 1978 AFCON tournament. Meanwhile, the 1984 and 1988 AFCON editions saw them reached the final, but they ran out of luck at both occasions as the lost to Cameroon.

In all appearances they have made at the African Cup of Nations, Super Eagles have emerged as runner-up on four occasions. They picked the 3rd place 8 times. But the 1980, 1994, and 2013 editions saw them claim the trophy.

For the first time, Nigeria qualified for the World Cup in 1994. Their first outing in the global tournament caught the big guns by surprise, and they were close to reaching the quarter finals. But their hope was dented by an extra time goal from Roberto Baggio who ensured that Italy got rid of the Super Eagles. Though they failed to reach the quarter final, but they made history as the first African nation to be ranked 5th in FIFA ranking – a record that still remains unbroken.

Indeed the older generation will never forget Atlanta 96’. Super Eagles put on a world class display that saw them won gold at the Olympics tournament in Atlanta.

Ever since its inception, the Super Eagles have paraded top class players which include the likes of Daniel Amokachi, Kanu Nwankwo, Stephen Keshi, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Taribo West, Samuel Okwaraji, Segun Odegbami, Rashidi Yekini, among others. The current squad also include big names who are doing well at their respective clubs across the world.

We hope they can maintain the legacy and keep the Naija spirit flying as we progress in our 19th African Cup of Nations campaign.

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