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Nigerian Football





Nigeria on Saturday became the 13th team to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup after those of hosts, Russia and four other European countries, four Asian teams, two from CONCACAF and Brazil in CONMEBOL.

And so, the figure 13 which often is considered an unlucky number has again played a significant role in Nigeria’s World Cup fortunes.

Sports Village Square recalls that the Super Eagles’ path to the Russia 2018 World Cup began on a 13th day, November 13, 2015 in Lobamba, Swaziland with a goalless draw with the hosts.

The Super Eagles, in beating Zambia 1-0 on Saturday attained a total of 13 points which is insurmountable in Group B of the African qualifying group.


What is more, the qualifying goal scored by Alexander Iwobi was the 13th Nigeria netted in the entire 2018 World Cup qualifiers which Nigeria began with a goalless outing with Swaziland on 13th November 2015.

Nigeria won the reciprocal match 2-0 in Port Harcourt to qualify for the draw for the third round in Africa in which eleven more goals have been scored to bring the total to 13.

What then is the myth surrounding figure 13 that it is always attached with unlucky association? Thirteen is so disliked that many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue.

Many high-rise buildings avoid having a 13th floor, some hospitals avoid labelling rooms with the number 13 and many airports will not have a gate 13.

In support of the myth around figure 13, reference is often made to the Bible where Judas Iscariot, the 13th guest to arrive at the Last Supper, was the person who betrayed Jesus Christ.


 Apolo  13 was the only unsuccessful moon mission has also been cited to support the myth around number 13. The myth is also stronger when it has to do with date, especially if it is a Friday.

It was on Friday the 13th of February in 1976 that Nigeria’s Head of State, Gen. Murtala Muhammad was killed by mutineers.

  Also, Friday, October 13, 1972, was a bad day in the history of aviation. That’s the day that Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 infamously crashed in the Andes, killing 29 people. On the exact same day, 174 people were killed when a Soviet Aeroflot crashed in a lake about a kilometre from the runway.

In November 13, 2015, a Friday, is infamously remembered for the series of coordinated Paris terrorist attacks including that of the famous Stade de France where a scheduled friendly international match was to hold. Close to 150 people were killed.

But for Nigerian football, 13 has been a lucky number. Sports Village Square recalls that Chisom Chikatara, Nigeria’s hero at the 2016 African Nations Championship wore jersey number 13 when Niger Republic was demolished by four goals to one.


  • Chisom Chikatara in shirt number 13 salvaged a point for Nigeria in a 2016 CHAN encounter with Tunisia. Earlier, his three goals played crucial factor in 4-1 defeat of Niger Republic in the opening match.

In the process, the number 13 shirted Chikatara became the tournament’s second player to score a hat trick.  In also drawing 1-1 with Tunisia in the tournament, the man with the ‘unlucky number’ was Nigeria’s saviour.

Chikatara is not the only Nigerian having 13 as magic number. Sunday Oliseh does, just as Tijani Babangida.

Oliseh is the 13th Nigerian to be appointed the coach of the national team. As a player, he led the Super Eagles to become the first qualifier, outside the hosts, for France ’98 World Cup. One significant fact of the qualification was the role of figure 13.

Like in the current Russia 2018 series,  Nigeria qualified for France ’98 amassing 13 points even with a match at hand in the qualifying series.

The Super Eagles got launched into qualification mood through a 13th minute goal from an unlikely scorer, Sunday Oliseh. It was his first ever goal for Nigeria after over 20 caps since his debut in the 6-0 defeat of Ethiopia in 1993.

His next goal for Nigeria, perhaps Nigeria’s most spectacular World Cup goal, was scored 13 minutes to the end of the Nigeria’s opening game with Spain. The Super Eagles beat Spain 3-2.


With 13 minutes to go, Sunday Oliseh scores with a blistering shot to give Nigeria a 3-2 win over Spain at France ’98 World Cup.

Significantly, Nigeria’s total World Cup goal-haul stood at 13 at the close of the France ’98. That 13th goal was scored by Tijani Babangida, wearing shirt number 13. It came 13 minutes to the end of the 4-1 loss to Denmark.  Significantly too, the total number of goals Nigeria conceded at the World Cup stood at 13 at the close of France ‘98.

  • Shirt number 13, Tijani Babangida shapes up to score Nigeria’s 13th World Cup goal 13 minutes to end the match with Denmark at the 1998 World Cup.

The magic of shirt number 13 is not peculiar to Chikatara and Babangida in the national team. Former Lagos ACB forward, Godwin Iwelumo was famous for the shirt number 13.

He scored in his debut for Nigeria in a 1978 All Africa Games qualifiers against Benin Republic on February 14, 1977.  Subsequently,   Iwelumo was famous for always scoring Nigeria’s goal number two. Who says 13 is an unlucky number?





Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Nigerian Football

Enugu Rangers hold on grimly at the top as Nigerian league gets to home stretch



Enugu Rangers may have broken loose from the pack following their comprehensive  3-0 victory over Bayelsa United on Sunday.

As if to aid Rangers’ hold of the top position, their closest rivals, Remo Stars who were initially just a point behind fell like  papers blown by the huricane, losing 3-2 to Kwara United. Their loss dealt a big blow on their title aspirations as they are now four points behind Enugu Rangers and had also narrowed their goal difference.

They are now third having been overtaken by Enyimba who have better goal difference even though both are with 56 points.

Shooting Stars who suddenly peaked in the second half of the season are fast pacing up, getting to the fourth position and three points behind Remo Stars.

They were dealt a blow in the added time as Katsina United’s Michael Okoro got an added time goal against to stalemate scores at 2-2.


Just as Enugu Rangers are at the cusp of the championship, the fates of Gombe United and Heartland appear already decided as the second tier Nigeria National League are already waiting to welcome them next season.

Akwa United may have navigated their ways out of relegation waters following their 2-1 away win over Lobi Stars. Akwa United are now 15th on the log. In Jos, former champions, Plateau and Niger Tornadoes played uninspiring goalless while relegation-troubled Heartland of Owerri spanked Gombe United 3-0 just as Kano Pillars dimmed Doma United 3-1.

All the results:

Sunshine Stars 0-0 Bendel Insurance

Rivers United 4-1 Sporting Lagos


Lobi Stars 1-2 Akwa United

Kwara United 3-2 Remo Stars

Katsina United 2-2 Shooting Stars

Kano Pillars 3-1 Doma United

Heartland 3-0 Gombe United


Enugu Rangers 3-0 Bayelsa United

Abia Warriors 0-1 Enyimba

Plateau United 0-0 Niger Tornadoes

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Nigerian Football

Finidi deserves our support, says former international, Kingsley Onye



NFF Confirms Finidi George

Ahead of the first press parley that Super Eagles’ new manager, Finidi George is going to have on Thursday in Lagos, former Nigeria international, Kingsley Onye has canvassed for full support for the new coach.

 To him, the time of politicking and pushing for a particular candidate was over. “It is time for all of us to back the chosen one, Finidi George”, remarked Onye who was a left rearguard player in the 1985 class of Flying Eagles who against all odds, upstaged hosts,Soviet Union to clinch the third place in the then World Youth Championships that is now called the U-20 World Cup.

  “Although I canvassed for Emmanuel Amuneke’s candidature, am still happy that an equally good Finidi George got the job”, he said in a phone conversation from his base in the United Kingdom.

  “The fact that some players complained after Nigeria’s second friendly match in March shows that Finidi is a man of his class and cannot be influenced by players’ sentiments.

  “I believe he will take Nigeria to an enviable height, the same way Amuneke too would have done.”


 Continuing, Onye who played for Enugu Rangers while he was in the country in the 1980s also remarked that he was on the same page with Victor Ikpeba who has asked that Finidi’s assistants should always back him in team selection  and tactical formations.

 “We should be more than 100 per cent behind the coach. If we do, he will perform wonders. He has his own philosophy which we must allow to flourish. He did it will Enyimba, leading the club to success last season and was at the brink of repeating the success before his appointment as Super Eagles’ coach.”

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Nigerian Football

Nigeria’s broadcast icon, Danladi Bako hails NFF on choice of Finidi George



Nigerian broadcasting icon, Dr. Nasir Danladi Bako has praised the Nigeria Football Federation for settling for former international and ex-Enyimba FC strategist Finidi George as Head Coach of the Super Eagles.

The Kogunan Sakwatto, 66, who created a plethora of famous TV programmes including Morning RideMastersports and Second Chance, among others, and served as Special Adviser to a number of Sports Ministers many years ago, insisted the NFF leadership struck a bull’s eye with the appointment of the two-time FIFA World Cup star, stating that George oozes class and character, and an iron determination to succeed despite his public carapace of a quiet person.

“Finidi George has that cultured, disciplined mien and personality that makes you want to trust him with a big project. He understands the meaning of constituted authority and right from his playing days, has always displayed the attribute of a team player. He has always had that calm, collected nature even in the face of pressure or danger.

“Above all, he is not someone who thinks he is doing the nation a favour. He is grateful for the opportunity and I believe that he has all it takes to succeed. I am calling on the Federal Ministry of Sports Development, the NFF and Nigerians as a whole to support him to take the Super Eagles to brand-new heights.”

Bako, who holds a doctorate degree in development communication from the Ahmadu Bello University and was Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission between 1999 and 2002, says all hands must now be on deck to ensure victories in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against South Africa and Benin Republic on 7 June and 11 June respectively.


“No doubt, the NFF got this one appointment right. Very much on point. Now, they should endeavour to give George all the support he needs to succeed in his task of qualifying Nigeria for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”

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