Since Nigeria gained her independence on October 1, 1960, the country has enjoyed some unforgettable moments especially in the sporting circles.
On its 59th Independence Day celebration, WE recall 9 of those numerous moments that would remain evergreen as far as Nigerian sports history is concerned.
Hogan Kid Bassey in action.
The Kid and The Tiger Rules Boxing.
Boxing is a sport that brought a lot of glory to Nigeria before and after Independence. The most notable achievement was by Hogan ‘Kid’ Bassey who won the World Featherweight boxing championship fight in Liverpool in 1957. After Independence, in 1963, another Nigerian, Dick Tiger, fought America’s Gene Fulmer, and won the World Middle weight boxing championship. It was fought at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan, Nigeria, in a historic fight that was covered by Africa’s first television station at the time, WNTV/WNBS, and may have been the first live transmission of a sports event in Africa.
Winning 1980 AFCON on home soil
After two consecutive third-place finishes in the 1976 and 1978 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament, Nigeria finally got her hands on the title on home soil in 1980.
Nigeria won her first title in style as they recorded a 3-0 win over Morocco in the final.
Getting to your first AFCON final, getting your hands on the title in such emphatic fashion and on home soil only occur in dreams. Nigerians dreamt and it happened. The country has won two more titles in 1994 and 2013.
1985 FIFA U-16 World Championship title
The first edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup was just for the U-16s and it was won by Nigeria.
In faraway China, the likes of Nduka Ugbade, Fatai Atere, Jonathan Akpoborie, Baldwin Bazuaye, Victor Igbinoba and late Kingsley Aikiobare won Nigeria its first international football trophy.
They won four games out of five en route the final where they beat West Germany 2-0 to lift the trophy.
First FIFA World Cup in 1994
The Super Eagles of Nigeria took the world by storm at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States. Led by Dutch coach Clemens Westerhof and playing an exciting brand of football, Nigeria went on to beat the likes of Bulgaria and Greece in the Group Stage to announce themselves on the world stage.
What a moment it was for the Super Eagles. Despite a second-round loss to Italy, the Super Eagles left their first-ever FIFA World Cup with their heads high and some memorable moments.
One of the most iconic Nigerian photos is that of the late Rashidi Yekini holding the net after scoring Nigeria’s first goal at the FIFA World Cup. Memories!
First Olympic Games Gold Medal by Chioma Ajunwa
While Nigeria made her debut at the Olympic Games as far back as 1952, the country had to wait for 44 years before her national anthem was sang at the biggest multi-sports event in the world.
Chioma Ajunwa in the Women’s Long Jump event gave Nigeria her first Olympic Games gold medal after leaping to a distance of 7.12 m.
Atlanta’96 Soccer Gold by Nigeria’s Dream Team
Apart from Ajunwa’s heroic gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games, Nigeria also emerged as the first Black Country to win the gold medal in the football event of the Olympic Games. Nicknamed the Dream Team, the squad then led by the legendary Kanu Nwankwo made dreams become reality as they conquered the likes of Brazil and Argentina before claiming the ultimate prize.
D’Tigers Won AfroBasket Championship
After several years of endless attempts, Nigeria’s men basketball team, D’Tigers finally conquered the continent as they won 2015 Afrobasket Championship for the first time thus qualifying for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Nigeria defeated their nemesis-Angola 74 to 65 baskets on 30th August 2015.
The victory was interesting because the team had always lost to Angola whenever they confront the team.
World Scrabble Championship
Scrabble requires intellect and consistency to be a champion. In fact, scrabble as a game played at the highest level in Nigeria is rare. Hence, when the news broke that Wellington Jighere won the World Scrabble Championship, it was a surprise to many. Jighere participated in the elite competition with 130 players from many countries battling it out over 32 rounds
Nigeria Debuts At The Winter Olympics
One of the most recent achievements of Nigeria in sports was her historic participation at the 2018 Winter Olympics
Though Nigeria is not the first African country to participate in the Winter Olympic, the country’s women’s bobsleigh team made history in Pyeongchang as the first from the continent at that big stage.
The history-makers were Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga.
Simidele Adeagbo also flew Nigeria’s flag in the women’s skeleton.