Former Nigeria national team captain Segun Odegbami has opened up about the historic and special place Cote d’Ivoire had in his illustrious football career.
Addressing an event attended by PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday night at the Nigeria Village within Universite Felix Houphouet Boigny Abidjan Cocody, the legendary “Mathematical,” as he is affectionately known, reminisced about certain milestones achieved in his career in Cote d’Ivoire.
Describing his return to Ivory Coast for the Africa Cup of Nations as divine and emotional, Odegbami reeled out the unforgettable moments.
“The first country I ever visited outside Nigeria was Ivory Coast,” the 1980 AFCON tournament-winning legend recalled.
First and best
Odegbami, who is second on the list of Nigeria’s all-time goal scorers only behind the late Rashidi Yekini, further revealed where he scored his first and greatest goal for the national team.
“The first goal I ever scored in my life was in Ivory Coast,” Mathematical, who went on to score 23 goals in 46 appearances for Nigeria, revealed. “The greatest goal I scored… so many people are saying the goal I scored in the 1980 AFCON is the greatest. No way was it the goal I scored when we played the Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire in Bouake for qualification for the World Cup.
“We had scored them three in Lagos; we came here; they were leading us 2-0, and I got the ball in our half and I raced the field to the other end and scored; it was the greatest goal I ever scored,” Odegbami told the excited audience, which included Obi Cubana, Nigeria Football Supporters Club (NFSC) President-General Rafiu Ladipo, and executives of the Nigerian community in Cote d’Ivoire.
Interestingly, when Cote d’Ivoire hosted their only previous Africa Cup of Nations finals 40 years ago, Nigeria also played their semi-final match in the city of Bouake against Egypt.
In what was easily ranked as the match of the tournament, the Pharaohs, led by Mahmoud Al-Khatib and including Taher Abou Zeid, Magdi Abdel Ghani, Ali Shehata, Ibrahim Youssef, and goalkeeper Thabet El-Batal, led 2-0 before the half hour.
But Stephen Keshi pulled one back from the penalty spot before halftime and then made the inch-perfect pull-out from which Bala Ali netted the equaliser in the second half. Nigeria won the ensuing penalty shootout 8-7.
Many Nigerians will be praying the Super Eagles can again navigate their way past South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in Wednesday’s semi-final contest.
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