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Surprising! No teammate ever added to Muda Lawal’s goals

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA
It is 32 years today since former Nigerian midfield maestro, Muda Lawal passed on.
In the Nigerian national team matches of the 1970s and 1980s, there was something intriguing about goals scored by Muda Lawal who died 32 years ago today.
Sports Village Square observed that they were usually the last for the teams he played for! His first Africa Cup of Nations’ goal was in 1976 against Guinea. It turned to be Nigeria’s only goal of the match that was drawn 1-1.
But the goal that drew the best applause was the winner against Egypt in a classification duel of the 1976 tournament.
It was a magnificent solo effort and backbreaking exploit against the Egyptians in the battle for the third place position of the 1976 Africa Cup of Nations.

In the 85th minute of the game, score-line stood at 2-2 and there was intense Egyptian pressure on Nigeria’s defence for a possible winning goal.
Apparently to douse tension on his defence, Joseph Erico, the Nigerian goalkeeper, sent a long kick to Muda Lawal who was lurking half way near the left line.
Like lightening, the wing half –turned attacker tapped the ball over a challenging Egypt’s Ibrahim Youssef and raced away.
Exhibiting superb ball control, coolness and magnificent footwork, Muda set the on-rushing Egyptian goalkeeper, El-Sharet Sharaf, to the wrong way, and not losing a step, he outwitted the left half-back, Ali Hassan and finally slotted the ball beyond the desperate outstretched legs of right back, Sallah Sallah who was then guarding the goal mouth.
What a beautiful goal that gave Nigeria a 3-2 win. It was Muda Lawal’s first continental honour. Later in 1976, he was a member of the African Winners’ Cup successful squad of the IICC Shooting Stars.
Another third-place medal with Nigeria in the 1978 Africa Cup of Nations before a winning medal of 1980 all added to the laurels of Muda Lawal.
But the peculiarity of his goals was that they turned to be the last for his teams. In other word, when Muda scored, no team-mate added to it.
The only match that appeared to be an exception was when a goal was wrongly officially attributed to him. That was in the opening match of the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations in Lagos in the Nigeria’s 3-1 defeat of Tanzania.
The opening goal of the match was attributed to Muda. But a video forensic analysis revealed that Aloysius Atuegbu scored the goal and that Muda Lawal along with Okey Isima only joined in the celebration.
In other instances, that Muda opened scoring; the matches were either drawn or lost by Nigeria. In 1976 Africa Cup of Nations’ second round match with Guinea in Dire Dawa, Muda opened scoring in the 52nd minute, but almost at the dot of regulation time, Papa Camara equalized for Guinea.
Sports Village Square also recalled that the scenario was the same when Muda opened scoring for Nigeria in a World Cup qualifier against Tanzania in Lagos in December 1980, the match ended in a frustrating 1-1 draw.
When he scored, it appeared there was an unwritten rule: “it had to be the last for his team”. In other instances, he closed scoring for his side as it happened in a 5-0 defeat for Benin Republic in 1979, 3-0 defeat of Algeria and Liberia in 1980 and 1981 respectively.
It was not a huge surprise therefore, when Muda opened scoring against Cameroon in the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations final match in Abidjan. No Nigerian was able to add to the 10th minute goal. Nigeria lost 3-1.
What was more, it was the first time Cameroon national team ever beat Nigeria having been dominated by the then Green Eagles in previous 10 encounters – three of which ended in phenomenal defeat of Cameroon in Yaoundé.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable goals Muda scored was against the then IICC Shooting Stars, the team that brought him into prominence. After he left the club following the team’s disbandment in 1984, he had a stint with Stationery Stores of Lagos.
With Shooting Stars battling in the murky waters of relegation in the then Nigeria National League in 1985, they played the match that confined them into relegation as Muda Lawal scored the crucial goal for Stores at the waterfront Onikan Stadium. He burst into tears after the match.

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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Nigerian Football

Relief for continental ticket-seeking Enyimba

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Enyimba FC who are desperately seeking a return to the continental fixtures next season have been relieved of a little financial burden by the Disciplinary Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation.

 The initial N10 million fine imposed on the team has been reduced almost by half.

 In the ill-tempered match with Enugu Rangers three weeks ago, the Nigeria Premier League fine Enyimba N5 million as part of the disciplinary measures taken, claiming that Enyimba disrupted the live telecast of the match.

The NFF committee disagrees with the decision and therefore set aside the fine imposed.

Enyimba will this Sunday host Plateau United in a potentially volatile match as both teams have varying chances of picking continental ticket to feature in either the CAF Champions League or the Confederation Cup.

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All eyes on Aba, Ibadan and Ikenne as battle for continental tickets goes down to the wire!

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A stroll in the park to be followed by victory parade are the anticipated spectacles in Jos when Enugu Rangers face ‘home’ sides, Gombe United this Sunday.

But elsewhere, it could be ‘thunder and blood’ battle as four eligibles fight for two obtainable continental tickets in three venues of Ikenne, Ibadan and Aba.

Remo Stars, Shooting Stars, Enyimba and Plateau United are aspirants jostling for continental tickets.

On the other side of the struggle is also the battle to evade relegation. Coincidentally, Ibadan  provides the venue for both dreams where the hosts, Shooting Stars, will be hoping to pick a ticket to any of the two CAF inter-clubs competitions while the debuting Premier League sides, Sporting Lagos are expected to play the game of their life.

Coincidentally, Shooting Stars were expected to give the Lagos sides the succour last weekend when they faced Bayelsa United.

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 Had Shooting Stars won the match, Sporting Lagos which upstaged Enyimba 2-1, would have been in comfort zone, making Sunday’s duel at the Lekan Salami a ‘merry-making’ venture for both sides.

But a twist of fortunes which saw Bayelsa fighting back to a 2-1 win means Shooting Stars will have to spare no weapon on Sunday to beat Sporting Lagos.

The visitors on the other hand have a mountain to climb to avoid the looming drop.

 Ikenne provides another battle ground, though with lesser gravity than what is expected in Ibadan and Aba. A win of any margin secures CAF Champions League ticket for Remo Stars as they host Katsina United who stay without threat in the middle of the league log.

But the battle will be fiercer in Aba where both hosts, Enyimba and visiting Plateau United have arithmetical and conjectural chances of making the top three and obtaining a continental ticket.

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While the battle at the top of the log is for two teams to join Enugu Rangers in getting continental ticket, so also it is at the bottom as both Gombe United and Heartland await the two others that will escort them to the lower league.

 Battling to avoid the drop are Sporting Lagos, Doma United, Akwa United and Bayelsa.

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Nigerian Football

Coronation day for champion-elect, Enugu Rangers

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Enugu Rangers can afford to lose 56-0 this Sunday to Gombe United and erase the record negative goal difference of the already relegated side. Such a scoreline will not change the destiny of both sides as Rangers will merely enter the pitch to fulfill the fixtures for formality sake. They will be more interested in the post match event – their coronation as the new king of Nigerian league.

 A win will only add icing to the celebration cake, taking their points to 70, just three short of 73 obtained by the defunct Dolphins in the 2010/2011 season.

 But it is taking nothing away from Enugu Rangers who will be presented with the league trophy this Sunday by the NFF president, Ibrahim Musa Gusau.

The NFF chieftain headlines a choice list of eminent guests expected at the occasion, which will see the champions, who will be crowned for the eighth time since a national football league was introduced in 1972.

Their success this season was confirmed last weekend when they beat Bendel Insurance 2-0 at home while their three rivals – Remo Stars, Shooting Stars and Enyimba lost their respective away games with identical scorelines of 2-1.

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