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The inside story of Nigeria's Atlanta '96 gold medal





Nigeria first participated in the Olympic Games in 1952 and has since sent athletes to compete in every summer Olympic Games except for the boycotted 1976 Olympics in protest of apartheid.

Nigerian athletes have won a total of 23 medals, mostly in athletics and boxing. For me, the most memorable and remarkable medal was the national football team's gold medal in 1996.

This was the first African football team to win a gold medal at the Olympics:

Daniel Amokachi, Emmanuel Amuneke, Tijjani Babangida, Celestine Babayaro, Emmanuel Babayaro, Teslim Fatusi, Victor Ikpeba, Dosu Joseph, Nwankwo Kanu, Garba Lawal, Abiodun Obafemi, Kingsley Obiekwu, Uche Okechukwu, Jay-Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Mobi Oparaku, Wilson Oruma and Taribo West

Coaches: Jo Bonfrere and Coach Musa Abdulahi.

This team had youthful exuberance, speed, technicality, endurance and patriotism. The players brought suspense and entertainment to the Olympic arena like never before.

Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina were the conquered nations on Nigeria's route to world conquest.

The team came into America early; way before every other team. The players trained in Tallahassee, Florida, unnoticed and unannounced. We left as the most loved and supported soccer team at that 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Little wonder the team set the record and the players became lifelong heroes of a nation of 160 million people.


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