By Jonathan Akpaborie
I can still remember, Â Â Â vividly, Group Â Â Â captain Anthony Ikazobohâ€™s comments at halftime on the 11thÂ of august 1985 in Peking china.
â€œBoys, you are 45 minutes away from making history.Â Remain firm and donâ€™t lose this chanceâ€.
All of these happened twenty four years ago, when the golden boys from Nigeria , went against all odds to become the first black African team to win a Fifa tournament.
My name is Jonathan Akpoborie, and on behalf of the rest of the under 17 team of 1985, I am writing to refresh the memories of those who were part of that history either through observation or participation. But I also write to express our complete disappointment.
The team left for china unnoticed and without any hope of glory.Â But through sheer determination, skill ,and fighting spirit we shocked the world. I have to add not just by luck but by exhibiting the beautiful game in a beautiful way. Even Nigerians started arguing, if we, the players were really Nigerians. Our first game in China was against the almighty Italians and all I seem to remember before this game,Â was the drama between me andÂ our captain andÂ my roommate NdukaÂ Ugbade. He mistakenly took my shoe instead of his to play the game. And he was two sizes bigger than me.Â My friends, he actually played in those shoes and was outstanding.Â His toes were curled up in the shoes for the whole ninety minutes.
After the Italians, were sunk by the wonderful header from Bella Momoh.Â The worldÂ thought it was a fluke. They were wrong, We went on to play a goallessÂ draw with Saudi Arabia and trashed Costa Rica by three goals. We did not stop there.Â We humiliated the Hungarians in the quarter finals, but met with a stiff opposition in the semi final against Guinea.Â Although it was tough, we scaled through by penalties. In the final, the Germans must have thought their television sets were up side down because we played total football and they had no chance. Even if the game was played till today they would not have scored a goal. To crown it all, a world class goal by any standard, scored by Victor Igbinoba was astonishing and has remained memorable to many.Â Wonderful.Â WHAT A TOURNAMENT!!!.
Our return to Nigeria was unforgettable, the plane could not land because there were too many people on the runway, that we had to try two or three times before the pilot could land the plane. That day was even declared half day by the then president and head of state, Mohammed Buhari.Â From that moment, football in Nigeria completely took a different dimension.Â The euphoria was such that we were shut out for sometime from activities including football because government declared us their property. It waslater in that year that we were released to continue football and some of us played for different clubs.
The confusion dragged on because the government wanted to compensate us with gifts and other rewards.Â But some officials said that we were too young, at that time, to be given elaborate rewards. But they forgot how elaborate our feets were.
Some years later,Â we won the same tournament again and added another one two years ago.Â Members of those later teams were well compensated for a job well done. And these were done immediately after their tournaments. But the ones who made history are still waiting.
My question is, after 24 years,Â when will Nigeria do the right thing and rightfully compensate these worthy ambassadors. Even the death of kingsleyÂ Akhionbare , was not acknowledged by our own football association. Kingsley was one of the key members of that team.Â May his soul rest in peace.
The U 17 world fifa tournament has arrived in Nigeria, and we are still waiting, even for tickets to watch some of the games. But one thing will be certain.Â We will be strolling into various venues with our heads held high, our medals on our shoulders and our memories intact.Â No one can take them away from us.Â REGARDS , JONATHAN AKPOBORIE, NDUKAÂ UGBADE, LUCKY AGBONSABAFE, IMAMA AMAPAKABOR, DELE ABOUBAKAR, BINEBI NUMA, KINGSLEY AHKIONBARE RIP, TOUNWORIMI DUERE, FATAIÂ ATERE, SANI ADAMU, SEGUN FAPETU, BELLA MOHMOH, YAHAYA MOHAMMED, HILARY ADIKI, BAULDWYN BAZUAYE, CHUKWUMA, SALISU NAKANDE, VICTOR IGBINOBA.
SEBASTIAN BRODRICKS, CHRISTIAN CHUKWU AND BALA SHAMAKI RIP.
Jonathan Akpoborie scored Nigeriaâ€™s first goal in that epic final with Germany.