HOW NIGERIAN FOOTBALL TEAMS FARE ON INDEPENDENCE DAY

HOW NIGERIAN FOOTBALL TEAMS FARE ON INDEPENDENCE DAY
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David Adejo celebrates the 1,800th goal of the U-20 World Cup on 1 October 2009.

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 Nigerian Academicals that lost 5-1 to Ghana on 1 October 1961 in Lagos

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.