Throw Back: Atlanta ’96

Picks mic *When Nigeria beat Brazil, When Nigeria beat Brazil eh, Bebeto come dey cry* Drops mic.

This was probably the biggest football game in the world the year it was played and on a personal note the biggest and most interesting game I have seen any Nigerian team play. It was in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympic games and the Dream team shook the whole world in what for me was the second best come back in football’s history, the first being Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League final’s 2-1 triumph over Bayern Munich. I was in boarding school then and I didn’t give Nigeria a shot at going far in the tourney after losing to Brazil in the group stage.

The loss in the group stage however didn’t deter the Dream Team which was what the Nigerian football team to the Olympics in 1996 was called (the name was however adopted for the U-23 teams afterward). They pulled through the group stage after beating Japan and Hungary in their final two group games before thrashing Mexico in the quarter-final  qualifying for the semi-final where they met Brazil again. My prediction that night? You probably guessed right if you said I thought Brazil would win again. It was past lights out in the hostel and the only chance you had in catching the game back then was if you were close to the house masters or certain teachers that had televisions in their quarters.

I wasn’t going to miss the game because Daffy, Balo and PD(we were the go to guys when it came to sports in  our set)  were sure of watching it and I wouldn’t want them rubbing it in my face. I mean how could I miss this sort of game? I saw Bebeto play at the 1994 World Cup in U.S.A and had heard a lot about Ronaldo De Lima prior to the Olympics though I was sad my all time best Brazilian player (Romario De Souza Faria Filho) didn’t make it to the tournament. The time approached (I think it was 12 am or there about) and I met the hostel gate open which to me was a good thing, clearly some of the lads had gone to the catch the game too. I walked for a bit and heard voices which signaled to me the game had started. I joined up with some of my seniors and mates behind J.O’s (one of the house masters) window to catch the game, it wasn’t comfortable but I could break an arm to watch a football match.

The Dream Team ensured they proved me wrong by beating the Samba boys of Brazil 4-3, nicking the game in extra time thanks to Nwankwo Kanu’s golden goal. It was a night or should I say an early morning of wild celebrations. I couldn’t believe Nigeria beat the Almighty Brazil which also had superstars like Rivaldo, Juninho, Aldair, Roberto Carlos, Savio etc  to progress to final of the male soccer event of the Atlanta Olympics. That 31st day of July, 1996 will forever be in my mind. Nigeria went on to win the gold medal of the football event beating Argentina 3-2 in the final.

Please find below clips of that great semi-final game. #ItsThrowBackThursdayPeople.

Thanks for your time guys and do have a wonderful long weekend ahead. Happy Eid al-Fitr and we shall continually celebrate more in good health and wealth (Amin).

 

Follow on twitter @dipoogun and on instagram via same handle.

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