BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
In the Nigerian national team matches of the 1970s and 1980s, there was something intriguing about goals scored by Muda Lawal who died 29 years ago today.
Sports Village Square observed that they were usually the last for the teams he played for! His first Africa Cup of Nations’ goal was in 1976 against Guinea. But the goal that drew the best applause was the winner against Egypt in a classification duel of the 1976 tournament.
It was a magnificent solo effort and backbreaking exploit against the Egyptians in the battle for the third place position of the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations.
In the 85th minute of the game, score-line stood at 2-2 and there was intense Egyptian pressure on Nigeria’s defence for a possible winning goal.
Apparently to douse tension on his defence, Joseph Erico, the Nigerian goalkeeper, sent a long kick to Muda Lawal who was lurking half way near the left line.
Like lightening, the wing half –turned attacker tapped the ball over a challenging Egypt’s Ibrahim Youssef and raced away.
Exhibiting superb ball control, coolness and magnificent footwork, Muda set the on-rushing Egyptian goalkeeper, El-Sharet Sharaf, to the wrong way, and not losing a step, he outwitted the left half-back, Ali Hassan and finally slotted the ball beyond the desperate outstretched legs of right back, Sallah Sallah who was then guarding the goal mouth.
What a beautiful goal that gave Nigeria a 3-2 win. It was Muda Lawal’s first continental honour. Later in 1976, he was a member of the African Winners’ Cup successful squad of the IICC Shooting Stars.
Another third-place medal with Nigeria in the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations before a winning medal of 1980 all added to the laurels of Muda Lawal.
But the peculiarity of his goals was that they turned to be the last for his teams. In other word, when Muda scored, no teammate added to it.
The only match that appeared to be an exception was when a goal was wrongly officially attributed to him. That was in the opening match of the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations in Lagos in the Nigeria’s 3-1 defeat of Tanzania.
The opening goal of the match was attributed to Muda. But a video forensic analysis revealed that Aloysius Atuegbu scored the goal and that Muda lawal along with Okey Isima only joined in the celebration.
In other instances, that Muda opened scoring; the matches were either draw or lost by Nigeria. In 1976 Africa Cup of Nations’ second round match with Guinea in Dire Dawa, Muda opened scoring in the 52nd minute, but almost at the dot of regulation time, Papa Camara equalized for Guinea.
Sports Village Square also recalled that the scenario was the same when Muda opened scoring for Nigeria in a World Cup qualifier against Tanzania in Lagos in December 1980, the match ended in a frustrating 1-1 draw.
When he scored, it appeared there was an unwritten rule: “it had to be the last for his team”. In other instances, he closed scoring for his side as it happened in a 5-0 defeat for Benin Republic in 1979, 3-0 defeat of Algeria and Liberia in 1980 and 1981 respectively.
It was not a huge surprise therefore, when Muda opened scoring against Cameroon in the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations final match in Abidjan. No Nigerian was able to add to the 10th minute goal. Nigeria lost 3-1.
What was more, it was the first time Cameroon national team ever beat Nigeria having been dominated by the then Green Eagles in previous 10 encounters – three of which ended in phenomenal defeat of Cameroon in Yaoundé.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable goals Muda scored was against the then IICC Shooting Stars, the team that brought him into prominence. After he left the club following the team’s disbandment in 1984, he had a stint with Stationery Stores of Lagos.
With Shooting Stars battling in the murky waters of relegation in the then Nigeria National League in 1985, they played the match that confined them into relegation as Muda Lawal scored the crucial goal for Stores at the waterfront Onikan Stadium. He burst into tears after the match.