Behold, The Miracle of Manaus!


The Sports Minister accused the team officials of trafficking in humans, the team officials complained that they were abandoned, the NFF complained that they are being ignored by the sports ministry, the sports ministry accused the NOC of abandoning its duties, and finally, the Nigeria U23 team became the first football delegate to arrive at the Olympics only hours to their event. Yet, the Boys from Nigeria won a 5-4 thriller against well-prepared Japan, and left some foot-prints in the sand of time on the way.

Ogehenekaro Etebo hit four goals in the Japan rout, to become the first African to score four goals in an Olympic football tournament. Kalusha Bwalya had scored three against Italy and two against Guatemala at Seoul 1988 on his way to recording six goals. To further put this in perspective, Guiseppe Rossi scored four goals to emerge Top Scorer at the last Olympics in London, the same number of goals the troika of Todor Vaselinovic (Yugoslavia), Neville D’Souza (India) and Dimitar Milanov (Bulgaria) scored to emerge joint scorer at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne,

The 5-4 Nigerian victory over Japan is one of three such results in Olympic Football history, Egypt were the first African side to win a nine goal thriller with the same scoreline: they defeated Chile at the 1952 Olympics. The other 5-4 result was recorded in 1936 when Poland defeated Great Britain.

And while we are at it, the chaos in Atlanta was the second time a Nigerian U23 team will be involved in drama in that American City. The Twitter handle of Atlanta Airport was clear on that. As soon as the Nigerian boys arrived for boarding, the handle announced that 20 years ago, the Nigeria U23 side also arrived late in Atlanta (not THIS late though), but went on to win the gold.

Finally, there is simply no analysing the victory of the U23 team, any analysis would be a lie. The beauty of sports is that no matter how huge the gap in class between opponents, there are absolutely no guarantees. The victory, just like the miracle of Damman, had little to do with coaching: It’s simply the Miracle of Manaus!

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