I stumbled upon the video compilation of the highlights of Nigeria’s journey to become Olympic Champions by clinching the gold medal for the Men’s Football Tournament in 1996. I do not consider myself to be a football fan, but as with many Nigerians, I find myself getting entangled and emotionally invested whenever Nigeria starts to progress within football tournaments.
Football is a sport that the average Nigerian is very passionate about. Watching the highlights of our journey to the gold medal win in 1996, exactly 20 years ago, I realized that there are some similarities between the conditions we faced in that competition and the challenging environment our nation must try to navigate through in the coming years. Although some may view this as a mere game of football, there are lessons for us as a nation which can ignite our hope and possibly gain us victory if applied to our current day realities.
Prior to this landmark victory in 1996, just two years before, the Super Eagles had won the African Cup of Nations and advanced to the second round of the FIFA World Cup in the United States. So what had changed for Nigeria at the time of the 1996 Olympics? We had some of the players from the previous tournaments on the team and it was the same location where we had been defeated a couple of years before. Preparation… and I dare say a true hunger for victory made the difference.
Quit the comparisons, it doesn’t matter who the players are on the team, all that matters is they are playing for the same side with a common objective in mind – to make a great nation (this is our hope). The Jonathan Administration made their mistakes but they probably also had a few victories. Either way, that is the past. The present is all that matters and all that can be influenced. The Buhari Administration needs our support because they are our present day representatives and that is not likely to change for the next three years.
It was a win against all odds: there was no track record, we had never won at the Olympics up to this point but somehow we progressed along, and made it over each hurdle. We weren’t the fans favorites, we were contending against the football giants – Argentina, Brazil, etc. We lost in the last group game to Brazil but secured a win against them when it mattered more at the Semi Finals and went on to beat Argentina at the Finals. The lesson for today is, do that which we have the ability to do. Show up, play the game and secure the important victories.
The Nigeria Football Supporters’ Club is a dominant force to be reckoned with during a football match. The trumpets, the dance steps, the energy exuded – these guys do not go unnoticed. We cannot all be on the field, we may not all be visible players, but we cannot afford to be naysayers. Identify your role as a Nigerian, dominate and give it your best shot.
The 1996 Olympic victory stands as a reminder that we must not lose hope in the face of seemingly hopeless circumstances. These are challenging times; however, as a nation we must remain resolute despite what comes against us, in the face of the giants, we must stand strong. We must get in line and fight our best fight knowing that we shall be victorious, bringing the ‘gold’ home and glory to our continent.
Nigeria, the world awaits! Our golden moment beckons.
“Those who want to reap the benefits of this great nation must bear the fatigue of supporting it” – Thomas Paine
Here’s a clip of the highlights from that epic tournament:
Photo Credit: Dreamstime