Nigeria at 59: 16 golden Nigerian sporting moments since 1960
There is no doubt that Nigeria are the political and economic giant of Africa and in terms of sporting achievements, the nation have had its highs and lows since it gained independence in 1960.
Looking back at the co-operate existence of Nigeria in the past 59 years, the most populous black nation have had its own fair share of unforgettable moments in sports that has put the country on the world map.
Nigeria have participated in many sporting events locally and internationally and won medals in prestigious events like the Olympics, Nations Cup, World Cup and the likes.
Here are 16 glorious moments Nigerians will never forget in a long time.
1. First Olympic Medal
Nigeria’s first Olympic medalist was the Light Middle Weight Boxer Nojim Maiyegun who won bronze at the Tokyo 1964 Games.
It was the first ever medal won by the West African nation in an Olympic event as the boxer became the first medalist since Team Nigeria’s first participation at the 1952 summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.
2. 1980 Nations Cup
The Africa Cup of Nations was hosted and won by the Green Eagles of Nigeria at the national stadium in Surulere.
It was the first footballing achievement of any team fielded by Nigeria as the men in green rallied past eight other teams to win the most priced football tournament in Africa.
3. 1985 U-17 World Cup
Captained by former international Nduka Ugbade, the maiden edition of the cadet World Cup was played in the Far East nation, China and won by Nigeria.
The Golden Eaglets overcame the favorites Italy in the final with a 2-0 victory with goals scored by Jonathan Akpoborie and Victor Igbinoba.
4. 1993 U-17 World Cup
The fifth edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup was another recognizable event where the Nigerian contingents made the country proud in Japan.
Wilson Oruma, Celestine Babayaro, Kanu Nwankwo and Mobi Oparaku were the set of players discovered from the tournament and went on to represent Nigeria at U-20, U-23 and the senior national teams.
Nigeria defeated fellow African contenders Ghana by 2-1 in the final courtesy of a Wilson Oruma header and Peter Anosike’s goal.
5. First World Cup qualification and participation in 1994
The whole nation was thrown into frenzy when the Super Eagles ensured her first qualification to the World Cup in the United States after securing the all-important draw away to Algeria.
USA 94’ has been the Super Eagles best ever outing in a World Cup tournament but they could not get through to the last eight after a last minute gasp equalizer from Italian Roberto Baggio forced the game into extra time.
Italy’s talisman added another in extra time to break the heart of Nigerians who had the lead in the early stages of the encounter.
In total, Nigeria have appeared in six World Cup tournaments.
6. 1994 Nations Cup
After several attempts in winning another Nations Cup title, the 14-year wait was finally over as the Super Eagles won the trophy in Tunisia.
The star studded side went all the way to the final to clinch the coveted cup as Rashidi Yekini emerged as the highest goal scorer.
7. 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games
The summer games in the United States was Nigeria’s best participation at the Olympics where the first gold medal was won by Chioma Ajunwa and the Men’s Football team led by Bonfere Jo.
Ajunwa’s jump of 7-12 meters was all she needed to clinch gold while the football team defeated all North and South American opponents including Mexico, Brazil and Argentina from the quarter final to the finals respectively.
8. 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup
After winning the 2007 U-17 competition play hosted by South Korea, Nigeria became the most successful team at teenage level.
It was a nervy penalty shootout between the Golden Eaglet and the Spanish U-17 side in the finals but the West African nation came out tops. Chrisantus Macaulay of Nigeria also won the Golden Boot award.
9. Hosting the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup
Following Nigeria’s pedigree at cadet level, FIFA handed the hosting rights to the football governing of Nigeria and tournament was successfully staged.
The Golden Eaglets played a memorable 3-3 draw in their first match against Germany after coming back from a three-goal deficit.
However, the team lost in the finals by a lone goal to Switzerland scored via a header from Seferovic as it ended the young lad’s dream of hosting to win. The competition gave birth to most expensive player of all time Neymar, who represented Brazil.
10. 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup
Failing at the last hurdle in 2009 did not deter the Nigerian team from performing excellently well at the 2103 edition at The United Arab Emirates.
New Super Eagles sensation, Kelechi Iheanacho and co outclassed their Mexican counterparts by 3-0 to win the trophy for a record, fourth time.
11. 2013 Africa Cup of Nations
Late Stephen Keshi resurrected the Super Eagles in the 2013 AFCON hosted by South Africa. The team failed to qualify for the previous event co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in 2012 but came out stronger with the help of Keshi.
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The Nigerian team was written off by many and the officials had already booked a flight after the team were slated to play Cote d’Ivoire in the quarter finals.
The two time champions became victorious after eliminating the Ivorians and went on the trounce Mali 4-0 in the semis. A Sunday Mba’s goal was all Nigeria needed to beat Burkina Faso in the finals to become Champions again.
12. Guinness World Book of records in 2015
One of Nigeria’s most successful track queens Blessing Okagbare wrote her name in the Guinness Book of Records for the most appearances in the Diamond League meet in 2015.
She beat Jamaican 100m and 200m record holder to the award after appearing 38 times in the Track and Field events in that year alone.
13. 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup
The Golden Eaglets successfully defended the title they won in UAE and consolidated it with another heroic feat in Chile.
Kelechi Nwakali and Victor Osimhen were players discovered in the tournament and they now play for top European league teams.
14. 2015 FIBA Men’s AfroBasket championships in Angola
For the first time in D’Tigers history they won the AfroBasket tournament becoming Africa Champions for the first time after failing on several attempts.
The Olumide Oyedeji captained side defeated eternal rivals Angola to win the competition and were handed automatic qualification spot at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
15. The Super Falcons of Nigeria superiority and 11th AWCON title
The female national team is the best African side in the tournament in history bagging the Nations Cup 11 times, a feat far better than any other African side.
Nigeria hosted and won the Nation Cup tourney in 1991, 1998, 2002 and 2006. The only two editions Nigeria did not win came in 2008 and 2012 tournaments which were won by Equatorial Guinea.
16. D'Tigress back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2019 FIBA Women’s Afrobasket championships
D’Tigress were third and fourth time winners of the Afrobasket championships played in Mali and Senegal.
The he Nigerian team defeated Senegal 60-55 to win the 2019 women’s Afrobasket title they won two years ago.
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