Atlanta ’96 is 20 years and Nigeria has nothing to be elated about

Kanu Nwankwo - Atlanta 96

Twenty years ago today, Nigeria conquered the world in Atlanta.

Right now, as I’m thrust in nostalgia of that dawn, I am not really elated.

Why? I go clear you, nor worry.

Apart from the memory of the scenes of seismic jubilation that rocked every nook and streets in Nigeria through that midnight till the morning, remembering that night now is bringing other elements that defined it.

Nigeria Atlanta 96 Football Olympics win

Now, I also remember that we all saw that match with no noise from generators, in Abeokuta that time, there was electricity, almost always. There were times we did shout “Up Nepa”, but, largely, light dey dey. So no, I am not elated.

Now, apart from Kanu’s “Korede Bello-esque” goal celebration, I also remember that at that time, we had taps running with clean water from the government’s Water Corporation in our home. Not always, but e dey dey. There was really nothing like Domestic Borehole or Pumping Machine. So no, I am not elated.

©YouTube|Kanu Nwankwo goal Atlanta 96
Na God Win! Kanu Nwankwo following his awesome goal at the semi-finals against Brazil, Atlanta ’96 Olympics
Nwankwo Kanu carried by team mates - Super Eagles Atlanta 96
3 Jun 1996: Nigeria Captain Nwankwo Kanu is carried by team mates after their victory in the Mens Football Final over Argentina at the Olympic Stadium during the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Nigeria won the match 3-2. Credit: David Cannon /Allsport

Now, apart from Bebeto’s tears, I also remember that at that time, all of us serekodes and ojewewes (teens) proudly attended public secondary schools that held their own in tenable standards. African Church Grammar School of life! BBHS and Abeokuta Grammar school, we attended with success in mind. Now, 20 years later, try it, you wee see. So no, I am not elated.

Now, apart from Babayaro’s epileptic dance goal celebration, I also remember that at that time, feck it, food was cheap as money still had some value. With little, you could get your relative definition of much in Kuto market. But, now, your relative much might not get a little. So no, I am not elated.

Celestine Babayaro giving us “abaka” hotness!

Etcetera Eseterra.

Nigeria is a beloved country, trust me; but, now, we are in dire straits, and we need beyond hero worship, sycophantic patriotism and living in denial, in order to become even better than our situation in 1996.

In all, that event, that night, was a great day…Nigerians together feasted on the idea of unity…and it was awesome…just awesome.

Where were YOU when Nigeria won Olympic gold at Atlanta ’96? Do you remember? What were you doing? How did you feel? Tell us! Let us know what you were up to on that historic moment.


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  1. Nothing has united Nigeria better than football. Unfortunately the present so called NFF self-made gurus are enriching themselves. At that time Nigeria was ranked 5 in the world. EFCC step in for us to see and give us the beauty of the beautiful game.

  2. Success don’t just occur, it is courted and diligently planned for. The 1996 Atlanta Olympic gold in football event was the peak of the result of the work done on our football industry by Clemence Westerhoff, the technical adviser to our national coach, for a period of about six years. To achieve this feat he broke so many heads in the NFA (now NFF) and also had a lot of spat with Chief Alex Akinyele then head of NSC and minister of sports. His closeness to the seat of power, especially his access to the VP, Rear Admiral Augustus Aikhomo, saw that he got what he needed logistically to put the national football team in shape.

    For his efforts, he became the first coach to qualify Nigeria for the World Cup tournament and gave us our second cup title in the CAF nation’s cup competition after 14 years of fruitless search. He it was also who gave Nigeria her first highest ever FIFA ranking of 5th position following our superlative performance in USA 1994 world cup tournament. Though he wasn’t the one that led the Olympic football team to win gold in Atlanta 1996, his assistant reaped from the solid foundation laid by Clemence Westerhoff.

    It is sad to note that 20years later and in an Olympic year, our overall preparation for the games is shambolic. It is more disheartening even for the football event with coaches being owed as much as 5months back wages, the team is facing threat of eviction from camping base and we have a minister who relates with the team and their handlers like outcasts. It will only be a miracle if the success of Atlanta 1996 is re-enact in Rio.

    No nation achieves success in the Olympics without solid preparation spanning over 4years as the case may be with some sports. We are probably the only nation that releases funds for Olympic preparation two weeks to the games and charge our team to come back home with a dozen deals from the games. What a shame.

    • Nigeria’s sports profile is in dire straits, no doubt about it, and it will be a miracle if the young men and women do well in Rio. Not because they are inferior to anyone in that Olympic village, but because they have the singular misfortune of being from a country that sows weeds and expects oak trees.

      That being said, your intelligent and insightful writeup on this issue reminds me and the entire team at Viva Naija exactly WHY we started this blog. Not just to be another blog, but to be the Thinking Man and Thinking Woman’s platform; a place where like minds like yours can meet and converse.

      Thank you for your comment. A million times, thank you.

      Rachel – Viva Naija.

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