In the year 1945, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was founded. Nigeria under the control of the British for centuries has participated in the World Cup, Olympics and held their professional national championships. In 1960 they gained their full independence and since then the West African nation has become a top contender on the international stage.
Nigeria’s national football team has been playing unofficial games since the 1930s when they were still a British colony. The Super Eagles played their first official game in the 8th of October, 1949 at Freetown, Sierra Leone where they beat the hosts 2-0. Since then, Nigeria has 6 World Cup appearances, in 3 of them managing to get past the group stages, 3 African Cup of Nations titles in 17 attempts, participation in African Nations Championships, Confederations Cup and of course, a Gold Medal in the 1996 Summer Olympics where they beat the heavyweights in Brazil and Argentina and a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics which took place in Beijing, losing to Argentina in a rematch of the 1996 event. That is a lot of success for an African nation which been around only for approximately sixty years and been underlooked in every event they attend.
The color scheme of Nigerians has always been a solid green theme with white highlights, lettering, and numbering. Their kits are now supplied by Nike and for the 2018 World Cup, they have gifted The Super Eagles with amazingly and beautifully executed kit design which got sold out instantly and the demand for them have been indescribable. Nigeria has the best looking kits in the beautiful game of football and they can surely be proud of that. The NFSC (Nigerian Football Supporters Club) is the head of Nigerian football fanbase. They are always colorful, loud, cheerful and they always stand out, wearing huge sunglasses, wigs, hats and all kind of other easily noticeable gear. The most popular chant is ‘’Oshe Baba!’’ which means ‘’Thank you father!’’ in Yoruba, which is the official language in many West African countries. Their home ground is The Abuja National Stadium which holds 60,000 people and their main rivals are Ghana but currently, Nigeria has been much more superior than their rivals in terms of performance, results, and potential.
Undeniably, ex-Chelsea man John Obi Mikel is the most well-known player coming from Nigeria. He is one of the best defensive midfielders the English Premier League has ever seen and surely, the best one in Africa. He has 85 appearances for the national team and he has scored 6 times for The Super Eagles. He is very passionate for his nation and always ready to play. Even despite having his father kidnapped multiple times, he never told his teammates so everyone could focus on the team’s performance. A true leader on the pitch and a great player with the ball. Now, John Obi Mikel plays for Tianjin TEDA Football Club in China. Of course, there are many other significant footballers coming from Nigeria. Vincent Enyeama being the one with the most caps for the national team, a great goalkeeper who is playing for the French side Lille. Joseph Yobo has the same amount of caps, so there are two leaders in this category, both with 101 appearances for The Super Eagles. Ahmed Musa, Peter Odemwingie, Kelechi Iheanacho and Alex Iwobi have all left their mark in the Premier League and doing great for their national colors too.
Fun fact, prior to independence, the football team of Nigeria was called the Red Devils because of their red-topped kits. After 1960, the nickname was changed to ‘’Green Eagles’’ in reference to the green state flag as
well as the eagle which adorns the countries coat of arms. After Nigeria`s controversial loss in the final of the 1988 Africa Cup of Nations, the nickname was changed to the ‘’Super Eagles’’ and seems like it is going to stay like that. Interestingly enough, the women`s national team is called the ‘’Super Falcons’’ and Nigeria`s youth teams are called ‘’Flying Eagles’’ and the ‘’Golden Eaglets’’
After the heartbreaking exit from the 2018 World Cup in Russia after losing to Argentina in the final minutes, there is a bit of a confusion in the fanbase of Nigeria. Some are disappointed, some are proud and some are neutral. In my opinion, Nigeria did great for a team in such a tough group. There are not many teams who could put up a fight like Nigeria did to Croatia and there are not many teams who could run over the unyielding Icelanders with such ease. Nigeria is full of prospects and believe me, the likes of Iheanacho, Iwobi, and N`Didi will shine soon and if they can fulfill their potential, in 2022 we could see a very strong Nigerian squad consisting of the young guns and, of course, Ahmed Musa, Oghenekaro Etobo, Victor Moses and other well known and proven footballers. You never know, maybe even then John Obi Mikel will still be dominating the midfield. Although the exit from the World Cup was a painful one and there are many fans who believe that Nigeria had to qualify, especially after Ighalos miss against Argentina, I think there`s more good than bad to take away from their performance. They fought like warriors, proved the world that they can be serious contenders in the future and that is the truth here. Nigeria is going to be exciting soon, very soon.