BY KUNLE SOLAJA
Figure 13 is often considered an unlucky number in some cultures. That was the shirt that speedy right winger, Tijani Babagandia wore on the night he came in as a substitute for Garba Lawal on this date 28 June 1998 in Round of 16 match of Nigeria and Denmark.
Thirteen minutes to the end of the match in which the Super Eagles were trailing 4-0, the number 13 shirted player scored a goal which coincidentally was Nigeria’s 13th at the World Cup.
For season, the shirt number 13 became customary for Babangida as he wore it in his Turkish club, Genclerbirligi Ankara in the season 2000-01 and also in the national team from 1997 to 2000.
Somehow, the figure 13 had been a lucky number for the Super Eagles. They attained 13 points in qualification for at least two World Cup editions of France ’98 and Russia 2018.
When an unlikely scorer, Sunday Oliseh found the net in the 1997 encounter against Kenya that earned Nigeria the France ’98 World Cup ticket, he did so in the 13th minute of the match.
The next time he scored a goal for Nigeria, the winning goal of the 3-2 triumph over Spain on a 13th day of June, it was in the 13th minute to regulation time. Before both Babangida and Oliseh, a certain Godwin Uwelimo used to play for the then Green Eagles.
Uwelimo usually wore jersey number 13 and he usually scored Nigeria’s second goals.