By Waheed Adebayor, Ibadan
Thirty-six years after the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in Cote d’Ivoire, former Green Eagles coach, Chief Adegboyega Festus Onigbinde has blamed Nigeria’s 3-1 defeat in the final to Indomitable Lions of Cameroon on a prominent Nigerian.
The erstwhile FIFA instructor, who was the first Nigerian to coach Super Eagles at the AFCON tournament, said a Nigerian (which he promised to disclose the identity at the appropriate time) sent somebody to Abidjan to buy the AFCON victory for Cameroon at the expense of Nigeria.
He said the prominent Nigerian bought the match for Cameroon out of envy that the glory will be too much for him (Onigbinde) to become the first Nigerian and African coach to win the AFCON title.
The elder statesman said he was appointed Super Eagles in 1982 to rebuild the team after it was disbanded and was able to build a strong team that would have won a second AFCON title for Nigeria after the 1980 victory on home soil.
“It started in 1982 when the national team broke down. I think they went for a competition in Libya and the team broke down. All the key players decided they were no longer interested. It was at that time the federal government requested if a Nigerian coach could handle the team, I was one out of over 60 people who applied. Seven of us were called for an interview and I came top. So, I eventually took over, starting from scratch because all the big names had left due to the disagreement they had with the authorities.”
“Barely two weeks into my starting with the team, we played a match against Egypt in Lagos and it ended in a draw. We met the same team in a return match in Kano, it also ended in a draw. And that was how we started building until we got to African Cup finals in 1984.”
“At the finals, our first opponent was Ghana, we beat them. Eventually, we qualified from that group and beat Egypt in the semi-final to reach the final.”
“At the final against Cameroon, it was a prominent Nigerian who sent somebody to Abidjan to buy the match. Yes, when the time is ripe to tell the story, we will say it. We lost the match because the Nigerian thought that the glory will be too much for me and my people.”
The late Stephen Keshi was the captain of the Super Eagles’ squad in Group B of the 1984 AFCON, comprising of Algeria, Ghana and Malawi. Nigeria opened their campaign against a dreaded opponent, Ghana with a 2-1 win from Henry Nwosu and Chibuzor Ehilegbu, while Opoku N’ti scored the Black Stars consolation.
The team played 2-2 against Malawi and scoreless draw with Algeria in their second and third group games respectively, to set up a semifinal clash against Egypt, which they won 8-7 on penalty after playing out a 2-2 draw in regulation and extra time of the encounter.