BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
It is curious, yet true. Nigeria’s opponents in this Friday’s Group A Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match in Abuja, Guinea Bissau, hold an everlasting record in Nigerian football history.
Not many will believe that the country, previously known as Portuguese Guinea, had played against Nigeria decades ago.
In fact the team produced the first ever scorer on the turf of the present-day National Stadium, Lagos.
That was on 2 October 1960 at the old National Stadium which was later demolished and rebuilt on the same site.
The old National Stadium was the venue of sporting activities that marked Nigeria’s independence.
The first official match was the October 2, 1960 semi-finals of the Kwame Nkrumah Cup that pitched Nigeria against Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea Bissau). Nigeria won 4-1.
But the very first goal of the match was scored by a Portuguese Guinea player, Ulisses Monteiro. He scored in the midst of confused Nigerian defence that made the visiting side to take a surprise 1-0 lead.
Asuquo Ekpe who later became Nigeria’s first ever scorer at the Africa Cup of Nations, equalised for Nigeria in the second half before additional three goals were scored.
So, on the old National Stadium, the Guinea Bissau player, Ulisses Monteiro could be regarded as the first scorer on the National Stadium turf.
The foundation stone of the present National Stadium was laid by General Gowon on 14 March, 1970 and was officially commissioned by the same man on 4 December 1972.
It is on record that at the inauguration of the new arena built on the same site, Nigeria beat Mali 3-0. Scorer of the first goal was Yakubu Mambo who thus entered the record books as the first to find the net at the rebuit stadium, but certainly not on that turf.
But to purists, this opens a debate thus Mambo, who died in December 1991, may not be the first scorer on the turf.
The Temporary National Stadium was the venue of the replay of the final match of 1961 Challenge Cup in which Ibadan beat Lagos UAC 1-0 on October 7.
It was the first time the final of the national competition outside its birth place, the waterfront Lagos City Stadium, formerly known as Association Ground, then KGV Stadium and now Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan Lagos.