By Ekene Dike
Nigeria gained its independence from the British colonial government in 1960. Since then, it has been acknowledged as a football loving nation. Football is regarded as Nigeria’s most followed sport. The citizens are obsessed with football. The Super Eagles of Nigeria which is the nickname of the men’s senior national team has done the country proud on several occasions. That aside, these are the top five feats achieved by Nigeria as far as football is concerned since its independence.
1. Winning First African Cup Of Nations Cup – 1980
Nigeria hosted the African Cup of Nations in 1980 and won the tournament on home soil. Players like Segun Odegbami , Christian Chukwu and Best Ogedegbe were on hand as Nigeria clinched its first AFCON trophy in Lagos. At the moment, the Super Eagles have won the continental competition thrice. The other times were in 1994 and 2013.
2. Qualifying For The World Cup For The First Time – 1994:
A FIFA World Cup is the biggest stage in football. Playing in a World Cup is as good as winning it. Nigeria finally qualified for the World Cup in 1994 under the management of Clemens Westerhof. Considering the fact that the Nigerians were debutants, it was a great outing as the Super Eagles qualified from the group stage and got eliminated by Italy in the Round of 16. Since then, Nigeria has participated in five other World Cups.
3. Fifth Place FIFA Rankings – 1994:
Incredibly, Nigeria climbed up the hierarchy of the football world rankings in 1994. The Super Eagles became the first African nation to be ranked 5th in the FIFA world rankings. This was deserved after winning the African Cup of Nations and a satisfactory World Cup campaign.
4. Olympic Soccer Gold – 1996:
In spite of the tussle of power between the military and civilian governments which resulted into disarray in the country, Nigeria’s football team put smiles on the faces of the citizens by becoming the first African team to win Olympic gold in the men’s football category. The Dream Team defeated heavyweights such as Brazil and Argentina en route their journey towards making history.
5. Golden Eaglets Set Record As The Most Successful Team At The U-17 World Cup – 2015:
FIFA’s U-17 World Cup tournament has been dominated by Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets. The biannual tournament has been won five times by Nigeria. In 1985, 1993, 2007, 2013 and 2015, Nigeria reigned supreme.