Nigeria is the most populous nation on the African continent, as well as the country with the largest economy in Africa; it is also a nation that shows unparalleled interest for soccer. On the international stage, the West African team, nicknamed the Super Eagles, is the top soccer contender since the 60s. The squad is governed by the Nigeria Football Federation which was formed in 1945 and joined FIFA in 1960.
Nigerian soccer squad is the only one from Africa to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and in 2018. The team made their qualifying debut at the tournament in 1994 and missed only one competition since then. At the 2018 FIFA World Cup Nigeria will be led by John Obi Mikel, an experienced and strong midfielder with a stellar career in Chelsea. Many Nigerian soccer players compete in European leagues, predominantly in England.
3 Facts about the Team History
- 1996 Atlanta Olympic Gold: As unlikely as people saw it, Nigerian men’s soccer team won the Atlanta Olympic soccer event in 1996 beating none other than Argentina in the final match after beating Brazil the day before. Nigeria’s Super Eagles were in the lead with a 2-1 score. For a period there was a tie, and Emmanuel Ammunike scored the winner goal in the second-to-last minute of the match. Nigeria won the first Olympic gold medal in soccer for Africa, with a team made up primarily of players aged 22 and under. Nigerian supporters were celebrating the medal for days in euphoria on the streets across the country. At the time a wounded nation, Nigeria healed under a unifying force of soccer.
- Famous Players: Nigeria's most decorated soccer player is Nwankwo Kanu with 86 caps and 13 goals for the national team; he won the Olympic gold medal in 1996 and won the African Footballer of the Year award two times. Jay-Jay Okocha has 75 caps and 14 goals and is famed for his dribbling abilities. Top scorer for Nigeria is Rashidi Yekini with 58 caps and 37 goals; he is considered a hero and legend of Nigerian international soccer.
- Team’s Kit and Nickname Evolution: The team has changed many names since its inception. Prior to Nigeria’s independence from Britain the national team was called the Red Devils because they wore kits with red tops; afterwards, the team wore kits emblematic of the colours of the Nigerian flag and so they changed the nickname into Green Eagles. The name was finally changed into Super Eagles after the team had lost in the 1988 Africa Cup of Nations.
3 Fun Facts about the Country
- Nollywood: Nigeria is home to second-largest producing movie industry in the world. It’s called Nollywood and is ranked behind the Indian film industry Bollywood and in front of America’s Hollywood. Every single week up to 200 movies are produced in Nollywood.
- Culture: Nigerians are rarely on time and the more they are late the more high class they are perceived to be; they refer to it as being on ‘African time’. The left hand is considered dirty in Nigeria and shaking hands, eating or passing/receiving objects with one’s left hand is frowned upon. It is also customary to not look into someone’s eyes.
- Diversity: Nigeria is home to over 250 ethnic groups. Three tribes are the most dominant: Igbo (18% of the population), Yoruba (21%) and Hausa-Fulani (29%). There are 521 languages recorder to have been spoken in Nigeria, and only 9 of them are now considered extinct.