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Before the current social-distance protocol occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic, Nigeria’s Super Eagles had adopted it months earlier.

On this date, 14 July 2019 in an Africa Cup of Nations semi-final clash with Algeria at the Cairo International Stadium, Super Eagles’ defenders spaced themselves out in an added time free kick awarded to Algeria while scorelines were still 1-1.

Algeria’s maverick striker, Riyad Mahred cleverly curved the ball through the yawning gap created as Nigeria’s goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi stood behind his defence wall.

The ball rested in Nigeria’s net for the back breaking winning goal for Algeria. Perhaps, the World Health Organisation (WHO) would have given a thumb up for the Super Eagles’ adherence to social distance protocol, CAF and the referee of the match, Gambia’s Bakary Gassama, would not have anything like that.


Before the winning goal, in a twist of fate, the Nigerian defender, William Ekong-Troost, whose goal put Nigeria into the semi-final began Nigeria’s ouster. He became the second player of the day to score an Afcon semi-final own goal, the first being Tunisia’s Dylan Bronn.

A cross from Mahrez was deflected into the net by Troost-Ekong. Nigeria later equalised from a second-half penalty from Odion Ighalo.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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