Remembering the Super Eagles Squad of 94
Football, a sport played across nations in the world in different pitches and style has proven over time, its universality.
In Nigeria, it is more than that. Football is the unifying factor of the 250 ethnic groups, it is the social status deifier and the unofficial language spoken in a nation with over 1000 diverse languages.
No other team exemplifies this truth like the legendary 1994 squad.
Slated in Group D, Nigeria made its first World Cup appearance in 1994 in the US. With the combined efforts and raw talents of the Clemens Westerhof-led team: Peter Rufai, Augustine Eguavon, Ben Iroha, Stephen Keshi, Jay Jay Okocha, Samson Siasia, Finidi George, Victor Ikpeba, Sunday Oliseh, Daniel Amokachi and Rasheed Yekini, Brazil as well as other nations were going to have a run for their title.
Arriving the US with their cheerleaders, the Nigerian Football Supporters Club and their fascinating ambience, religious books, cheer songs, drums and trumpets, the world was in for an entertaining surprise. With well-delivered passes, their play was fluid like a well-orchestrated symphony.
At the 21 minute, Rasheed Yekini (assisted by Finidi George) scored the first world cup goal against Bulgaria. In a fashion the world has never seen, he clenched onto the net and screamed to high heavens while the supporters went wild with celebration.
The world was stunned but the Super Eagles were not done. A simple tap by Daniel Amokachi (assisted by Rasheed Yekini), at the 43 minute, gave the world a display of our disco step. This goal was shortlisted for FIFA’s World Cup Greatest Goal Award in 2018.
By the 55 minute, Emmanuel Amunike’s header (assisted by Finidi George) put an end to the aspirations of the Bulgaria team.
Adjudged the most entertaining team and ranked 5th by FIFA, the highest ever by any African football team, It was became clear to the world that the Super Eagles had come to dominate.
With the same show of talent and skill, they went ahead to win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations.
The Super Eagles became a symbol of unity. When they emerged,tribe, language, religion, the class were forgotten, fading into a blur. All that mattered at that moment was green. All that mattered was a victory.
Two years later in 1996, they played in the Olympics with Bonfrere Joe as their coach and other additions to the team. It was the year Nigeria ruled the world. Their performance was impressive, their skills had improved, their formation was brilliant and their celebration was dramatic such that it bordered on theatrical.
Although their victory was short-lived two years later due to their 1-4 loss to Denmark, Nigeria’s presence had been established.
The following World Cup and other matches that followed witnessed the absence of Nigeria due to the rising political tension between 1996 to 1998.
All that soon changed after they featured in the 1998 World Cup and Sunday Oliseh scored a goal worth remembering. Away from the corruption and coups that threatened the existence of the nation, the Super Eagles had become an example in many capacities: It recognized and appreciated talent for the job, showmanship and a symbol of hope.