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Africa Sports News of Tuesday, 27 July 2021


When Nigeria conquered the world, with Garba Lawal

Nigeria became the first African team to win Olympic gold in  1996 Nigeria became the first African team to win Olympic gold in 1996

2020 Olympic football is in full swing, with Africa’s quartet enjoying mixed fortunes during the first two gameweeks across the men and women’s competitions.

These footballers will know that they are walking in the footsteps of giants, and aiming to emulate one of the greatest national sides in the history of African football.

In 1996, in Atlanta, Nigeria became the first African team to win Olympic gold in the football competition—and indeed, there has never been—before or since—a side from the continent who have surpassed this triumph in a major men’s competition.

The Eagles’ performance in the United States will live forever in the memories of those who experienced it, not least because of those vibrant triumphs against Brazil and Argentina in the semi-final and final.

Names like Jay-Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu and Celestine Babayaro will forever be remembered among Nigeria’s all-time greats, and their exploits will indelibly be emblazoned in the minds of those who witnessed their feats.

This week on Goal, we are delighted to speak with one of the legends of that side—the great Garba Lawal—as he sits down with Shina Oludare to discuss his memories of that remarkable triumph in Atlanta.

Lawal remembers the inspirational advice of Jo Bonfrere, the big performances among his teammates, and those unforgettable clashes with Brazil and Argentina.

It’s a walk down memory lane, and a beautiful tribute to an iconic team by a man who was at the heart of that glorious success.

The versatile Lawal featured in every one of Nigeria’s matches at the tournament—as the Eagles marched to the gold—and subsequently sealed a move to Roda JC on the back of that triumph.

Having previously played for Julius Berger in his homeland and Tunisian giants Esperance, Lawal went on to taste life in Bulgaria, Sweden, Portugal, Greece and China.

He eventually returned to Nigeria 12 years after he’d left, again representing Julius Berger before wrapping up his career after a stint with Lobi Stars.

The gold-medal winner amassed over a half-century of caps for Nigeria between 1997 and 2006, representing the Eagles at the World Cups of 1998 and 2002.

He was also part of the Nigeria side that reached at least the semi-finals of four Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, although they would never again quite recreate that feat of 1996.