BY KUNLE SOLAJA
Did you know that but for the humiliating defeat that the Ghana Academicals inflicted on their Nigerian counterparts on 1 October 1961, the first anniversary of Nigeria’s independence, the date has since become ‘sacred’ for Nigeria?
In 1961, former Ghana education minister, Hammond Dawuona donated a trophy to be competed for annually by selected secondary school boys of Nigeria and Ghana on home and away basis.
The very first edition was played at the then Lagos City Stadium Onikan on 1 October 1961. Nigeria lost woefully 1-5 at home and followed up 28 days later with another 4-0 loss to Ghana in Accra.
But since, Nigerian youth teams have held the sanctity of 1 October. In 1978, after playing a 1-1 draw in a World Youth Championship (now U20 World Cup) with Cameroon in Lagos on 17 September, the Henry Nwosu-propelled team beat Cameroon 2-0 in Yaoundé to advance and thus began an era of Nigerian teams winning on 1 October, no matter the venue of the encounter.
It was in that spirit that the Golden Eaglets beat Angola 3-0 on 1 October 1994 to get a 5-1 aggregate in the second leg of the 1995 African Youth Championship qualifiers. Nigeria had in the first leg won 2-1 away.
Nigeria’s youth team also had another spectacular outing on a 1 October date when in 2009, when at the Cairo International Stadium in Egypt, the Flying Eagles beat Tahiti 5-0 to qualify for the knockout stage.
In doing so on 1 October, one of the Nigerian players, Daniel Adejo scored a 90th minute goal that not only qualified Nigeria for the next around, but also turned a milestone – the 1,800th goal in the competition’s history.