Playing against Egyptian opposition guaranteed five cup victories for Nigerian teams in the past, anytime we won a soccer competition, for the very first time. Maybe, the Super Eagles first World Cup triumph in future will depend on the luck of the Pharaohs.
Green Eagles’ first and only All Africa Games gold medal came at Lagos ’73. In the semi-finals, they scaled the Egyptian hurdle and it was in grand style. Man of the match was policeman, Sunny Oyarekhua, who hit a brace in the first half. Before intermission, the Nigerians were three goals up, thanks to soldier boy, Kenneth Olayombo.
Egypt fought back in he second stanza and got two goals. It was a bad day for them. Sanni Mohammed put the game beyond their rich with the fourth. It ended 4-2. In the grand finale, Oyarekhua, dazzled again with the first goal as Nigeria defeated Guinea 2-0. The policeman scored five goals in the competition.
In 1976, Shooting Stars of Ibadan became the first Nigerian football club to win a continental trophy, the Africa Winners Cup, which was introduced by CAF in 1975.The Oluyole Warriors pounded Roger Milla’s Tonnerre Kalara 4-2 aggregate to lift the cup in Yaoundé, the Cameroonian capital.
In the semi- finals, their opponents were Zamalek of Egypt. The North Africans had a good home record. In the Second round, they humiliated Ahly of Libya 3-0. In the quarter -finals, Ethiopia’s Metchal got a 6-0 drubbing. When Shooting Stars played the first leg in Cairo, the hosts won 2-0.
In the Nigerian second leg, the Egyptians refused to fall. With upcoming stars like Segun Odegbami and Muda Lawal, the Ibadan team put in two goals past their opponents. The result was a 2-0 win. And that brought aggregate scores to 2-2. Both teams went into penalty kicks. The hosts ran away with a deserved 5-3 triumph.
It was remarkable that Shooting got the continental ticket, thanks to Enugu Rangers, who were Nigerian double champions in 1976. The Flying Antelopes would have been the first club to earn African honours but they lost in the 1975 finals of the CAF Champion’s League to Hafia of Guinea. In 1976, they tried again. Algeria’s Mouloudia Chalia, halted them in the semis while IICC won the Winners Cup.
In 1980, the Green Eagles grabbed the first of their three Africa Nations Cups. They were in the Lagos Group A alongside Tanzania, Cote D’Ivoire and Egypt. In the last match of the first round, Okey Isima’s early strike turned out to be the only goal of the match.
The Green Eagles powered past Morocco in the semis courtesy of another powerful hit by Felix Owolabi. In the grand finale, it was yet another North African outfit, Algeria, that got bruised 3-0. Odegbami was simply out of this world. He scored twice while Muda added the third.
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The Dream team had a hard road to travel on the way to their Atlanta ’96 Olympic gold. In the final qualifying match, Egypt scared them in Lagos losing narrowly, 3-2. Nwankwo Kanu, Austin Okocha and Celestine Babayaro tried all they could to earn a comfortable win.
The ticket was confirmed in the Cairo second leg. The Dream Team put pressure on their hosts and showed that they could not be scared away from home. Just 1-0 would have done it for the Egyptians. That was when Victor Ikpeba showed why he was called Prince of Monaco. A 1-1 result was enough to see Nigeria through.
What better place than the Land of Pyramids to shout ‘Nzogbu Enyimba enyi’. It happened in Ismailia, Egypt. Nigeria had been unable to win the CAF Champions League from inception in 1965. Rangers, Shooting[1984,1996] and Iwuanyanwu Nationale all tried their best possible but lost in the finals.
Enyimba did it and in their second attempt. In 2003, The Peoples Elephant subdued Ismailia on 2-1 aggregate. It was sweet victory as both teams met four times in that year’s competition. They were in the same group. In the first leg of the finals in Aba, Enyimba won 2-0. In the second leg, they lost 1-0.
It should be noted that in their group game in Ismaili, Enyimba suffered a 6-1 disgrace. That was the day Vincent Enyeama lost the captain’s band. In the Aba return leg, the hosts emerged victorious, 4-2. In the campaign, coach Kadiri Ikhana used Enyeama, Romanus Orjinta and Abu Musa respectively as skipper.
Also noteworthy is the day Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, joined Ikhana as coach in the semi -finals second leg match against USM Alger. Kalu also outfoxed Egyptians fans after cup victory when he sneaked out of the stadium with the cup. It was a bloody day.