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History of Nigerian football and Super Eagles at 70: Kunle Solaja

Have the glory days gone for the beautiful game in Nigeria?

Nigerian soccer has come a long way. Where are the glory days of Rasheed Yekini, Emmanuel Okala, JJ Okacha and the mathematical Segun Odegbami? Soccer historian Kunle Solaja in his epic sports  book rekindles  those glorious moments in Nigeria’s soccer history and the Super Eagles 70 action-packed years.

Solaja’s “Super Eagles @ 70; Soaring on the Wings”, unveils the hidden treasure of information on Nigeria’s national team.

Solaja is the only African journalist to have covered eight consecutive editions of the FIFA World Cup.  His book reflects his in-depth knowledge of the history and business of football in Nigeria. Here are some fascinating facts you will find in the historical account:

Eagles for show. 

History of Nigerian football

  • Nigeria’s first scorer in a World Cup qualifying match; the first scorer in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying series; the first match in which the offside rule was first applied in Nigeria.
  • Nigeria’s national team historic tie-breakers, first penalty shootout, and the first Nigerian player to be expelled at an international match.
  • The creator of the red and yellow card in football, Kenneth Aston had refereed in Nigeria.
  • The history of the Super Eagles team from the days of UK Tourists through the Red Devils, to the Green Eagles and then to Super Eagles.  It is a literary celebration of 70 years of Nigeria’s senior football squad.
  • All the statistics of the coaches are revealed in astonishing detail.
  • The details of every qualifying and final matches Nigeria ever played in both the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup.
  • How Nigeria became the first African team to tour the United Kingdom as well as the first English-speaking African team at the World Cup.
  • All arenas that the Nigerian football team, has played their home matches in virtually every part of the vast nation. It indicates the first match at each of the stadiums.
  • The evolution and technical details of the various home grounds of the Nigerian national team as well as the first scorers.
  • The olive green  2018/2019 Nigeria’s away kit, inadvertently re-enacted the first shirt that the Nigerian team wore in their inaugural matches in 1949. The 190-page book is well illustrated with captivating photographs.

6 things about the Super Eagles you never knew 

History of Nigerian football

First World Cup qualification 

Super Eagles first qualified for the Fifa World Cup finals when the team drew 1-1 with Algeria on 8 October 1993. The day also marked the 44th anniversary of Nigeria’s first international match on 8 October 1949 when the returning ‘UK Tourists’ beat their hosts, Sierra Leone 2-0 in Freetown.

Nigeria and Algeria soul mates 

Both Nigeria and Algeria have ‘soul-ties’ in football. Both went to Brazil 2014 World Cup having a jinx to break. While Nigeria sought for a first win of a World Cup match in 16 years, Algeria looked for its first World Cup goal in six World Cup matches. Both were the last two African teams standing at the 2014 World Cup and were eliminated by European teams.

Both Algeria and Nigeria rode on each other’s backs to win their first Africa Cup of Nations trophy just as they did in their first qualifications for the World Cup. Nigeria beat Algeria in 1980 to win the African title for the first time. Algeria beat Nigeria in 1990 to win the cup for the first time. Algeria beat Nigeria in 1981 to qualify for the World Cup for the first time.

October 8th sacred day 

October 8 is sacred for the Nigeria Super Eagles. The team qualified for USA ‘94 on October 8, 1993 in Algiers. It is significant to note that it coincides with the anniversary of Nigeria’s first international match (October 8, 1949). Significantly, until 2015 when DR Congo won a friendly match 2-0 in Vise, Belgium,  Nigeria never lost a match on October 8. Consider the following:

• 1949 – Freetown  (Friendly) Sierra Leone 0-2 Nigeria

• 1963 – Monrovia (Friendly) Liberia 2-2 Nigeria

• 1977 – Lagos (World Cup qualifier) Nigeria 4-0 Egypt

• 1993 – Algiers (World Cup qualifiers) Algeria 1-1 Nigeria

• 2005 – Abuja (World Cup/Afcon qualifiers) Nigeria 5-1 Zimbabwe

• 2011 – Abuja (Afcon qualifiers) Nigeria 2-2 Guinea

Lucky number 13

History of Nigerian football

On the road to France ‘98 World Cup Super Eagles’  lucky number was 13. In many cultures, the figure 13 is often considered an unlucky number. But it turned Nigeria’s lucky number in the qualification for France ‘98 World Cup in which the Super Eagles became the first among the other 31 teams that joined the hosts, France.

First-ever penalty

The first time Nigeria’s national team was involved in a penalty shoot-out as a tie-breaker was in a World Cup qualifying duel with Tunisia on July 12, 1980.

Though penalty shoot-out had been operational since the 1970s, the Nigeria national team first experienced it only in 1980.

100 goals for Nigeria

100 is the number for the goal that Victor Agali scored when he found the net to put scores at 2-0 in the 3-0 defeat of Sudan in a World Cup qualifying match in Port Harcourt on January 27, 2001. It was Nigeria’s 100th goal in the World Cup qualifying series and Nigeria became the first in Africa to strike that milestone.

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