BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
On this date, 3 August 1996, the Nigeria men’s football team beat Argentina 2-1 to win the Olympic Games gold medal as the first non-European team in 68 years.
It was a milestone in the football event of the Olympic Games. Since the 1928 Olympics in Antwerp, European teams had won all the football gold medals until Nigeria broke the trend.
Significantly, since Nigeria’s feat, no European team has been able to win the gold in the past 24 years. Perhaps also significantly, when Nigeria won the bronze medal at the Rio 2016, the country became the first to win all available medals – gold (1996), silver (2008) and bronze medals in the football event.
The feat was later matched by Brazil, which had won the bronze in 2008, silver in 2012 and gold in 2016.
The sports magic by Nigeria was first noticed in a memorable semi-final clash against star-studded Brazil when the Nigerian lads came from behind to beat the South Americans with a golden goal in the extra time.
It was at that encounter that an apparent jinx was finally broken. Before the July 30, 1996, Olympic Games semi-final match, no Nigerian team had ever beaten a Brazilian squad in an official FIFA match
Again in the final match before a crowd of 86,116 spectators at the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, and against another South American side, Argentina, the Nigerian team came from 2-1 down to win 3-2. Emmanuel Amuneke scored the winner in the second-to-last minute, earning Africa its first Olympic gold medal in soccer.