Nigeria is a country of young people and so sports is a major segment in the county. That has been the case since the 40s and intensified after independence. Even though football has taken up a lion share of time and resources, many other sports like athletics, boxing, basketball have thrown up memorable moments. Premium Times runs a microscope over some noteworthy sporting moments in Nigeria since the country got her independence from the United Kingdom in 1960.
1. Ajunwa’s Nigeria’s first individual Olympic gold in 1996
Arguably the biggest sporting accolade has been the individual Olympic gold medal won by Chioma Ajunwa at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA. Ajunwa became the first athlete in Nigeria to win an Olympic gold medal and is also the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event. She remains Nigeria’s only individual Olympic gold medalist till date.
2. First African football Olympic gold in 1996
Nigeria became the first African country to win the Olympic gold in the football event at the 1996 Olympics. The team, captained by Nwankwo Kanu, went the circuitous route; coming from 3-1 down to Brazil in the semi-final to win 4-3 with a sudden-death goal from Kanu and then repeating the feat against Argentina in the final.
3. Maiyegun won Nigeria’s first Olympic medal in 1964
Nojeem Maiyegun represented Nigeria at the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, then he won the bronze medal in the men’s Light Middleweight category and enter the history books as Nigeria’s first Olympic medalist.
4. U-17 national football team won the FIFA U-17 Championship in China in 1985
The national cadet team, the Golden Eaglets, were the inaugural winners of the U-17 World Championship, as it was known in 1985, that held in China. The team coached by Sebastien Brodericks and Christian Chukwu beat Germany in the final 2-0, with goals from Babatunde Joseph and Jonathan Akpoborie.
5. Super Eagles qualified for the 1994 World Cup in the USA
After six unsuccessful attempts to join the elite of world football, a team led by the late Stephen Keshi and coached by Clemens Westerhof eked out a 1-1 draw away to Algeria on October 8, 1993, at the Stade du 5 Juillet 1962, Algiers. Finidi George scored Nigeria’s goal in the 19th minute, and the Algerians equalised through Sidi Ahmed Zerrouki with 19 minutes left on the clock. The Eagles held on to book their place in the 1994 World Cup that held in the United States of America.
6. The ‘Damman Miracle’ in 1989 at the FIFA U-20 World Cup
The Nigeria U-20 national football team, the Flying Eagles, came back from a 4-0 deficit to Russia, with 30 minutes left on the match clock in a dramatic match of the 1989 FIFA U-World Cup. They progressed to the final and lost 2-0 to Portugal in the final. The squad boasted the likes of Nduka Ugbade, Christopher Ohenhen, and Samuel Elijah.
7. Jighere won the Scrabble world title in 2015
Nigeria’s Wellington Jighere won the Scrabble world title triumph in 2015 and in the process became the first African player to be crowned World Scrabble Champion. He defeated Lewis MacKay in four straight rounds to win the inaugural WESPA Championship. Jighere is a two-time African Scrabble Champion and12-time National Champion.
8. D’Tigers won the FIBA Afrobasket title in 2015
The national male basketball team, D’Tigers won their first-ever FIBA Africa title in Tunisia in 2015 by defeating their perennial nemesis, Angola 74-65 in the final, led by Emeka Ugochi, who scored 19 points.
9. Yekini named Africa’s best in 1993
The diadem of Africa’s best football player had eluded Nigerian players until the late Rashidi Yekini, in 1994, showed that he was a cut above the rest. The first Nigerian player to score at the FIFA World Cup, the former 3SC and Vitoria Setubal striker was the lynchpin of the Super Eagles team that won the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations Cup tournament and reached the heady heights of No.5-ranked team in the world.
10. Enyimba won the elusive CAF Champions League title in 2003
Enyimba FC of Aba won Nigeria’s first Champions League crown – the CAF Champions league. This trophy eluded Nigeria for 38 years, with three traditional teams Rangers FC, in 1975, Shooting Stars Sports Club [3SC], in 1984 and 1996, Iwuanyanwu Nationale [former Spartans of Owerri], in 1988 having come very close to ending the drought but all three teams were beaten in the competition’s final. Enyimba, coached by Kadiri Ikhana, beat Ismail of Egypt 2–1 on aggregate to end the curse. They also retained the title in 2004.
11. Okocha became Africa’s costliest footballer in 1998
In 1998, just after the FIFA World Cup in France, Austin ‘Jay-Jay’ Okocha was transferred from Fenerbahce of Turkey to PSG of France in a then Africa world record fee of $18 million. The midfield maestro played 84 times and score 14 goals in a four-year stint.
12. Eagles 2018 World Cup jersey is a hit
The Super Eagles debuted a Nike jersey just before the 2018 World Cup in Russia that won various accolades. It was reported that the Eagles’ uniquely designed jersey had pre-orders of over three million around the world. Nike released it to the public on May 29, 2018.
13. Nigeria’s national cricket team qualify for ICC World League event
Nigeria qualified for the 2009 ICC World Cricket League Division Seven, held in May 2009 in Guernsey. The tournament was the first stage of qualification structure for the 2015 World Cup.
14. National cricket team qualified for world T-20s
The Nigeria national cricket team made her T-20 debut on 14 September 2018 in Boland Park, South Africa. As a result of Zimbabwe’s suspension, the ICC confirmed that Nigeria to replace them in the 2019 ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier tournament.
15. ‘Dick Tiger’ won a world title in 1962
Richard ‘Dick Tiger’ Ihetu was Nigeria’s first world boxing champion when he won the world middleweight title in 1962 by beating Gene Fullmer and then in 1966, he won the world light heavyweight title by decisioning Jose Torres of Puerto Rico. Tiger died of liver cancer in 1971, at 42, and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.
16. Nigeria’s national football team won gold at the 2nd All-Africa games in 1973
In what was the first of many, the Green Eagles sounded a note of warning to other African football nations that they were ready to compete against and beat the best on the continent. This the Green Eagles confirmed by beating Guinea 2-0 in the final, at the AAG hosted by the country.
17. Eagles became Africa’s best in 1980
The Green Eagles won their first Africa Cup of Nations Cup title in 1980. The event hosted by Nigeria was a showcase for the attacking talents of Segun Odegbami and the rock-solid defending from the captain of the team, Christian Chukwu.
18. Nigeria hosted the U-20 FIFA World Cup in 1999
Nigeria hosted the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup in four venues–Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, and Enugu. The tournament was where Julius Aghahowa was unearthed but the Nigerian team, coached by Fanny Amu, ‘wobbled and fumbled’ their way out of the tournament in the quarterfinal, beaten 3-1 by Mali. Most of the Spain squad that won the tournament came to the world attention and went on to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
19. Nigeria hosted the U-17 FIFA World Cup
Ten years after hosting the U-20 FIFA World Cup, Nigeria again hosted the world in 2009 in the U-17 category and the team, the Golden Eaglets, went all the way to the final but were beaten 1-0 by Switzerland. The Nigerian team was tainted with the underage controversy surrounding the captain, Fortune Chukwudi.
20. Chukwumerije won Taekwondo bronze at the 2008 Olympics
Chika Yagazie Chukwumerije qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games and defeated Akmal Irgashev of Uzbekistan to win Nigeria’s first bronze medal in taekwondo at an Olympic Games tournament.
21. Offoin becomes first Nigerian swimmer at the 2000 Olympics
Gentle Offoin qualified for the 2000 Olympic games and competed in the 100m freestyle event where he crashed out in the first round. He was not the first swimmer to qualify; John Ebito holds that record, having qualified for the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, which Nigeria boycotted.
22. Odizor progressed to the Wimbledon fourth round in 1983
Nduka Odizor progressed to the fourth round of the 1983 Wimbledon tennis tournament – the farthest a Nigerian has achieved in lawn tennis. He also got to the highest ranking of 52 in the world in 1984. He is also the first Nigerian to play at an Olympic Games tennis event–representing Nigeria at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
23. Falcons win inaugural AWCON
Nigeria won the inaugural African Women Championship [AWCON] in 1998. The team beat Ghana 2-0 in the final match played at Abeokuta, Ogun state.
24. Falcons have won AWCON 11 times
Nigeria’s female national team, the Falcons have won Africa’s top tournament a record 11 times. The Super Falcons of Nigeria are Africa’s most successful football team, winning the African Women’s Championship for a record 11 times, with 8 coming consecutively.
25. Golden Eagles have been crowned world champions five times
Though tainted by allegations of underage cheating, Nigeria is still the most successful nation in the tournament’s history, winning the title five times and finishing as runners up on three occasions.
26. Peter won a World Heavyweight boxing title in 2008
Samuel Peter won the WBC Heavyweight title in 2008 when he defeated Oleg Maskaev by TKO in Mexico. Though Peter’s reign lasted only seven months, as a returning Vitali Klitschko eventually defeated him.
27. Nigeria Paralympic athletes debut in 1992 Olympics
The Nigerian Paralympic team made its debut at Paralympic games at the 1992 summer Paralympics in Barcelona. At the games, the team claimed three gold medals, two in Athletics, and one in powerlifting. Since 1992, Nigeria has won 36 gold medals, 18 silver medals, 1nd 16 bronze medals, for 70 medals.
28. Eagles attain top 5 FIFA ranking in 1994
In what is fondly remembered as the golden generation of Nigerian football, coach Clemence Westerhof and his group of players made Africa proud, and took the world by storm with their professionalism and style of play. The team was ranked 5th in the April 1994 FIFA rankings, the highest FIFA ranking ever achieved by an African team. Till date, Nigeria is the only African country to have risen as high as 5th in FIFA’s monthly rankings.
29. Nigeria has two UFC champions
Both Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman are champions in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Adesanya holds a 20-0 record and is the Middleweight and a bonafide star of the franchise while his compatriot, Usman, is also undefeated with a 12-0 record as the Welterweight champion.
30. Nigeria presents bobsled team at 2018 Winter Olympics
Nigeria qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics and became Africa’s first-ever bobsled team. Three US-based athletes, Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga, and Ngozi Onwumere competed in the tournament that held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
31. Nigeria women’s national basketball gets to World Cup quarter-final
The women basketball team, D’Tigress, made it to the world cup in Spain and bowing out in the quarterfinals after losing 71-40 to USA., and eventually finished in the 8th place in the classification matches.
32. Nigeria has won all medal categories in Olympic football
Nigeria is the first African country to win the three medals in the football event. The team won gold in 1996; silver in 2008, and bronze in 2016.
33. Falcons reached a World Cup quarter-final in 1999
They are the first African women’s team to have reached the quarterfinals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999. Having not won a match in their previous two visits, the Falcons beat North Korea 2-1 to kick off their campaign, before dispatching Denmark and progress to the quarter-final where they faced Brazil. The Brazilians went 3-0 up in 35 minutes, but the Falcons fought back to level the score. They eventually succumbed to a 104th-minute golden goal. The team has not gone as far ever since.
34. lfeajuna won a High Jump a gold medal at the 1954 Commonwealth Games
The late Emmanuel lfeajuna won a gold medal in High Jump event at the 1954 Commonwealth Games.
35. Bassey was crowned World Featherweight champions in 1957
Hogan ‘Kid’ Bassey became the World Featherweight Boxing king in 1957. Hogan was the first Nigeria-British born boxer to become world boxing champions after he shed his blood to win a featherweight bout in 1957 in Liverpool.
36. Ikhouria won a bronze at the 1972 Olympic Games
Isaac Ikhouria won bronze competing in the light heavyweight class at the Olympic Games in 1972. He defeated Gilberto Carrillo, Cuba, on all the judge’s scorecards to win the Olympic bronze medal.
37. 5 Nigerians won gold at the 1983 World Universities Games
The 1983 World University Games in Edmonton, Canada gave birth to world-beaters. There was Sunday Uti, in the 400m, Yusuf Ali, in the long jump, Ajayi Agbebaku in the triple jump, Egbunike in the 200m, and Chidi Imoh, in the 100m. All five won gold to kick start fulfilling athletic careers for both country and American universities.
38. Nigeria came in 8th at the 2014 Commonwealth Games
Nigeria finished with 11 gold, 11 silver and 14 bronze medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, finishing in eighth position, their highest since they started attending the Games.
39. Andeh claims world amateur boxing title in 1979
In 1979, Davidson Andeh became the first and only Nigerian to win the World Amateur Lightweight boxing championship fight against a Russian opponent, in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
40. Quarter milers hit gold despite silver finish in the 2000 Olympics
The quarter-mile relay quartet at the 2000 Sydney Olympic games – Sunday Bada, Jude Monye, Clement Chukwu and Enefiok Udo Obong did not win their final race but 12 years after one of the American runners was disqualified following a failed dope test.
41. Two-time champions in Beach Soccer
Nigeria have won the Africa Beach Soccer Championship twice. The Sand Eagles won the tournament in 2007 and 2009. They were runners-up in 2006 and 2011. The team were bronze winners in 2015 and came fourth in 2013.
42. Quadri named ITTF’s best in 2014
Aruna Quadri was named the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) star player in 2014. He was also voted the Best Male player ahead of then world number one, China’s Xu Xin.
43. Oshoala named best player at 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
Asisat Oshoala was named best player and was the highest goal scorer at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, where she scored seven goals – the highlight being a four-goal haul in the 6-2 semi-final win over North Korea. Nigeria lost 1-0 to Germany in the final, but the Barcelona star had already made her mark.
44. D’Tigers qualify for the Olympics
Nigeria’s male national basketball team – D’Tigers were the first African nation to ever qualify for the summer Olympics through the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying tournament, and this feat was achieved in 2012.
45. CHAN Eagles’ comeback against Morocco in 2014
The Stephen Keshi-coached home-based Super Eagles performed a minor miracle in African Nations Championship [CHAN] tournament held in South Africa in 2014, when the team came from a 3-0 deficit to beat Morocco 4-3 after extra time. Aliyu Ibrahim, a substitute, completed the turnaround when he scored his team’s fourth goal in the 11th minute of extra time.
46. Nigeria’s 4×400 relay quartet made history in 1984
Nigeria won its first-ever Athletics Olympic medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games in the 400m relay event. The quartet of Innocent Egbunike, Sunday Uti, Moses Ugbisie, and Rotimi Peters won the bronze in an Africa record time of 2:59.32.
47. Egbunike became the first medal winner at WAC
Innocent Egbunike became the first Nigerian athlete to win any medal at a World Athletics Championship in 1987 in Rome. Also, his Nigerian record of 44.17s in the 400m still stands till today.
48. Onyali attended 5 consecutive Olympic Games
Mary Onyali, for many years Nigeria’s sprint queen, attended the Olympic Games on five consecutive occasions. Onyali became the first Nigerian [and African] to achieve the feat in 2004, her fifth consecutive appearance since 1988, where she competed in the 100m, 200m, and the 4X100m relay race.
49. Toriola attended 7 consecutive Olympic Games
Segun Toriola, the grand-daddy of Nigerian table tennis, is the only African, and Nigerian, across all sports, to have taken part in seven different Olympic Games–from 1992 in Barcelona till the Beijing Olympics in 2008 where Toriola achieved his best finish – progression to the third round. Toriola, now 46, was ranked the No.1 player in Africa for 10 consecutive years – between 1998 and 2008.
50. Oduamadi scores hat trick against Tahiti
Nnamdi Oduamadi represented Nigeria at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil and achieved the feat of becoming the only Nigerian to have scored a hat trick in a FIFA senior tournament. The former AC Milan prodigy scored in the 10th, 26th, and 76th minutes to help Nigeria to a 6-1 victory over the Islanders.
51. Fasuba set existing 100m African record in 2006
Olusoji Fasuba set the record of 9.85s from the Doha Grand Prix in May 2006, thus breaking Frankie Fredericks’ record of 9.86 set in 1996. That record remains Africa’s fastest time till date. He was part of Nigerian quartet that won bronze in the 4x100m relay at the 2004 Olympics.
52. Okagbare ended a 14-year IAAF Championship drought in 2013
Nigeria’s participation at the IAAF World championship had become a fallow ground from 1999 when Gloria Alozie won silver in the women’s 100m hurdles, and Francis Obikwelu got a bronze in the men’s 200m in Spain until 2013 when Blessing Okagbare won silver and bronze medals in the long jump and 200 metres events, respectively.
53. Osimhen sets record at a FIFA U-17 tournament
Victor Osimhen was part of the Nigerian U-17 team to the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile. The lanky forward set a record of scoring 10 goals to win the Golden Boot. He also won the Silver Ball award. He has since become an established forward for the Super Eagles and recently moved to Serie A to join Napoli for a multi-million-dollar transfer.
54. Adekuoroye claims first-ever African Silver Medal
Odunayo Adekuoroye, a wrestler from Ondo state in Nigeria, became the first-ever African female wrestler to win a medal at the World Wrestling Championship event in Paris in 2017, in France. The 26-year-old had in 2014 won gold at the Commonwealth Games. She has become the No.1 ranked women’s freestyle 55 kg wrestler by United World Wrestling (UWW).
55. Okagbare writes her name in Diamond league history books
In 2015, Blessing Okagbare recorded her name in the Guinness Book of Records for appearing in the Diamond League for the most time – 38, competing in the 100m, 200m, and long jump events.
56. Kehinde breaks records at the 2016 Rio Olympics Games
Paul Kehinde, a Nigerian Powerlifter, twice, broke the men’s 65kg World Record at the 2016 Rio Games, to win the gold medal. The Powerlifter then lifted a whopping 220 kg to break the world record he held. He was decorated with the Member of the Order of the Niger [MON] award by the Nigerian government in 2016.
57. Fan attendance at the 1980 AFCON final
Nigeria’s Super Eagles entered the 1980 Nations Cup final as host and top bet to claim their first title and on hand to witness the memorable occasion was over 100,000 spectators, that included the President, Shehu Shagari, at the National Stadium, Lagos. The number of fans is still the record for a sporting event in Nigeria.
58. Okwaraji slumps and dies at the National Stadium
This was a tragedy, but it is an iconic moment in the history of sports in Nigeria. Samuel Okwaraji, a midfielder for the national team, collapsed and died before they could resuscitate him. He slumped in the centre of the pitch in the 77th minute of a FIFA World Cup qualification encounter against Angola on August 12, 1989. An autopsy conducted revealed the 25-year-old had an enlarged heart and high blood pressure.
59. Nigeria achieved Group 1 status in Davis Cup in 1988
The Nigeria Davis Cup team was two matches away from qualifying for the World group in 1988 as they reached the Group I semifinals in 1988 and 1989. The country now competes in Africa Zone Group III.
60. Amokachi subs himself into a match
The circumstances are foggy but Super Eagles legendary forward, Daniel Amokachi, wrote himself into football, Everton, and FA Cup history books on April 9, 1995, at Elland Road in a FA Cup semi-final match against Tottenham. “Daniel wandered onto the pitch, the fourth official held up the board, and that was it,” Joe Royle, Everton manager said afterwards, before adding that it was “the best substitution I never made.” Everton won the match 4-1 and claimed the FA Cup trophy that season.