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Nigerian Football

It’s 45 years today since Nigeria’s first goal scorer at Olympic Games died

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Sam Garba Okoye, scorer of Nigeria's first goal at the Olympic Games

BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Not many current followers of Nigerian football will remember a certain Sam Garba Okoye. His name may no longer ring bells to the current generation.

But he was a legend of Nigerian footballer. He was the scorer of the first goal a Nigerian national team scored in an international competition outside the continent.

Simply called Sam Garba, he opened scoring for Nigeria in the 33rd minute of the country’s Olympic Games football match against Japan at Mexico ‘68.

It was the first of the 48 goals that Nigeria had scored so far at the Olympics – a landmark. He was also the scorer of the last Challenge Cup goal scored at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos (now Mobolaji Johnson Arena), the birthplace of the Nigerian national cup.

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The goal was the equaliser, at 2-2 when Mighty Jets played against Bendel Insurance in the 1972 cup final. Garba’s last kick of the ball, stalemated scorelines and a replay outside Lagos for the first time ever.

Milestones appeared linked to him as he was the star of the Nigerian Academicals that beat their Ghanaian counterparts 1-0 in Accra on 13 February 1966. For the records, that was the first time that a Nigerian team ever beat Ghana in Accra.

In that squad was also the likes of Peter Anieke and Tony Igwe who also played significant roles in the national team and also the Stationery Stores of Lagos in the years that followed.

But 45 years ago, on this date, 31 July 1978, Sam Garba, the former national team footballer and later an assistant coach to the then Green Eagles,  died in an automobile accident along Lafia-Akwanga Road in Nasarawa State. He was aged 30.

At his bloom, Jos was the nursery that produced star footballers for Nigeria. It was from there that the trio of Garba, Tony Igwe, Peter Anieke, Gabriel Babalola and Segun Odegbami emerged.

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Later Okoye played for Plateau XI, Mighty Jets and the Green Eagles. Although he had no Challenge Cup gold medal to show, he was a regular in six final matches played by Jos teams from mid 1960s to 1974.

The most significant of the Challenge Cup appearances was that of 1972. With five minutes left of play, and the Mighty Jets trailing 0-2 to Bendel Insurance, Sam Garba  Okoye scored two quick goals to stalemate the match at 2-2

His equalizing goal was such a beauty that was saluted with a standing ovation and crowd-pitch invasion. He took the ball from his own half and dribbled five Insurance defenders before scoring the goal.

 

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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.

Nigerian Football

Osimhen’s outburst was a moment of madness, says Amaju

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Former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President and a  FIFA Council member, Amaju Pinnick has expressed shock at last month’s outburst by Super Eagles’ striker, Victor Osimhen against Finidi George.

“It is very unfortunate”, Amaju Pinnick remarked on an Arise Television programme. The former NFF president said he had put a call to Osimhen who was very remorseful while the telephone conversation lasted.

  “I told him he has to apologise, and I am sure he will if he has not yet done so.” Amaju remarked that he could not comprehend what went wrong as Osimhen was the most cool-headed player in the national team.

He went on to remark that Finidi George was not a personality to be disregarded like that. He has won virtually every honour available during his playing days and was a member of the Super Eagles at their peak when Nigeria ranked fifth in the world.

“I believe players should learn to respect their coaches”, said the former NFF boss.

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I prefer a foreign coach for the Super Eagles, says Amaju

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Nigeria’s FIFA Council member, Amaju Pinnick has told the world that he has always been an advocate of foreign coaches for the Super Eagles. He spoke on Arise Television while fielding questions with Reuben Abati, Rufai Oseni and Ayo Mairo-Ese. 

His reason for being averse to indigenous  coaches stemmed from lack of respect for them by the players.

“Yes, the Nigerian coaches have the requisite knowledge and the technical ability, but modern football is beyond that in managing players.

“Will the national team players respect the coach? The sad thing is that they don’t”, said Amaju Pinnick.

 He however revealed that he supported the appointment of Finidi George owing to the circumstances that the NFF found itself after the exit of Jose Peseiro.

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 The NFF, he revealed, had no money to hire a foreign coach. The body therefore went for the most available option, Finidi to ensure a smooth transition.

 “Finidi was part of the coaching crew of Peseiro and it was therefore logical to ask him to continue.

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Nigerian Football

NFF to train referees on VAR

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Application of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR)  may soon be introduced into Nigeria’s domestic football competitions.

This is deduced from the statement of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) President, Ibrahim Gusau while addressing the annual general meeting of the Nigeria Premier League.

He also disclosed plans by the federation to train Nigerian referees on the application Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

Gusau revealed that  NFF had already secured the communication gadget that the referees will use during matches.

“We have to train the personnel that will manage the VAR now. We have selected some of the referees that we are to start training.

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It is not a training of one day, one month or two months; it is a training that will take a little bit of time. After the training they have to go on practical training on the VAR system by going out while some matches are ongoing to see how they can manage it. But when we are sure we have the personnel that can manage it in the next one or two years, we will start to see how we can use VAR in our system,” Gusau said.

He also said that the federation intends to make the league attractive by discouraging Nigerian players from joining other lesser glamourous African clubs without established football pedigree.

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