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24 Years After: Celebrating Nigeria’s 1996 Olympics Gold-Winning Team

24 Years After: Celebrating Nigeria’s 1996 Olympics Gold-Winning Team

Today, 3 August, 2020 makes it 24-years that Nigeria’s Dream team won the Olympic gold medal in Atlanta 1996 after coming from a goal down twice to defeat Argentina 3-2 in the final of the men’s football tournament, thus became the first African country ever to win football gold medal at the Olympics.

The Jo Bonfrere-led team had captured the imagination of supporters with their exciting brand of football which saw them also come from two goals down to beat Brazil which had the likes of Ronaldo and Bebeto 4-3 in the semi-final even after trailing 3-2 untill the 89th minute.

In the final, the Dream team twice came from behind and defeated an Albiceleste side armed to the teeth with the likes of Ariel Ortega, Claudio Lopez and Hernan Crespo.

This is the squad which had Nwankwo Kanu as skipper that brought entertainment to the 1996 Olympics arenas like never before through their exuberance, speed, technicality, endurance and patriotism.

Complete Sports reporter, OLUYEMI OGUNSEYIN reviews all the players that represented Nigeria at the Atlanta ’96 Olympics a whopping 24 years ago and what has happened to them since then…

Joseph DOSU

Date of birth: 19 June 1973 (age 47)
Position: Goalkeeper
Currently: Coaching in Lagos

Joseph Dosu’s career started on a very promising note particularly with his Olympic gold medal following on from a Nigerian cup win, performances that earned him a transfer to Reggiana in the Italian Serie A.

However, the former goalkeeper never made an appearance in Italy as his career tragically came to an abrupt end after he was involved in a car accident in 1997. He is currently coaching at an academy in Lagos.

He was the only home based player to be included in Nigeria’s 1996 Olympic team where despite being the least experienced of the three goalkeepers, he ended up as the team’s first-choice shot-stopper.

Also Read – Ajunwa: How I Dumped Football And Jumped Into Olympic Gold

After winning 1996 Olympics gold with the Dream team in the 1996 Olympics, he went on to play three more international games for Nigeria, the November 1996 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Burkina Faso which the Super Eagles won 2–0 in Lagos.

The friendly against Morocco in December 1996 where he kept another clean-sheet and the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Kenya in January 1997. The match against Kenya which ended in a 1–1 draw was his last game for the Nigeria.

Dosu started his coaching career more than a decade ago and that was precisely back in the year 2009 after he was appointed as the head coach by Lagos-based Westerlo Football Academy.

Emmanuel BABAYARO

Date of birth: 26 December 1976 (age 43)
Position: Goalkeeper
Currently: Retired

The older brother of Celestine Babayaro, Emmanuel was included in the squad to the 1996 Olympics but the goalkeeper never made an appearance at the games or in any other capacity for Nigeria.

Emmanuel was a keen central midfielder as a child but his younger brother, Celestine would force him to play in goal, hitting him until he gave in. It was in this position that he was noticed.

Rufai: How I Transformed From Midfielder To Goalkeeper; My ‘Surprise’ France ’98 W/Cup Call-

Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles celebrate their Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games football gold .

Mobi OPARAKU

Date of birth: 1 December 1976 (age 43)
Position: Right-back
Currently: Retired (2010)

Mobi Oparaku played six matches at the 1993 FIFA U-17 World Cup. For Nigeria, he was a participant at the 1996 Olympic Games where the Dream team won the gold medal and at the France 1998 FIFA World Cup with the Super Eagles.

Oparaku together with Taribo West played every game of the gold medal winning campaign. Despite also representing Nigeria at the U-17 World Cup, African Cup of Nations and the 1998 World Cup, his career never really took off.

He played for several clubs in Belgium. In 2000, he spent a season with the El Paso Patriots in the USL A-League. In 2001, he played for the Connecticut Wolves. In December 2005, he played with late Rashidi Yekini at Gateway F.C.

The former central defender spent the majority of his career in Belgium which included a spell with Anderlecht. He then played in the American lower leagues before returning to Nigeria in 2005 and then retiring at Enyimba in 2010.

His professional career reads: 1993–1995: Iwuanyanwo Nationale, 1995: Anderlecht, 1995–1997: Turnhout, 1997–1999: Royal Capellen, 2000: El Paso Patriots, 2001: Connecticut Wolves, 2001–2005: Rivoli United, 2005–2008: Gateway and 2008–2010: Enyimba.

Taribo WEST

Date of birth: 26 March 1974 (age 46)
Position: Centre-back
Currently: Pastor

Taribo West who is best remembered for his various unusual and colourful hairstyles played every single minute of the 1996 Olympics with Nigeria’s Dream team and also appeared at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups with the Super Eagles.

After winning several major trophies with Auxerre in Frane, West went on to play for both Milanese clubs, Inter and AC Milan. He also appeared in the top level leagues of England with Derby County (loan) and Germany (Kaiserslautern).

He played alongside Ronaldo as Inter won the UEFA Cup in 1998 before making the move to cross-city rivals, Milan. He went on to make five appearances for Plymouth Argyle before retiring twelve years ago and that was precisely in 2008.

On the international scene, West who is now a full-time pastor made 42 caps for Nigeria between 1994 and 2005, taking part in two World Cups and two African Cup of Nations where he won a series of silver and bronze medals.

In January 2004, West suffered an injury during the team’s training session that ruled him out of the AFCON. He returned to the national team on 17 August 2005, making his final appearance for the Super Eagles in a friendly against Libya.

A devout Christian, West despite admittedly using charms before games during his professional career eventually became a pastor after his footballing days. In 2014, he founded a church called “Shelter in the Storm Miracle Ministries of All Nation” in Lagos.

Uche OKECHUKWU

Date of birth: 27 September 1967 (age 52)
Position: Centre-back
Currently: Retired

Uche Okechukwu was a part of the squad that won the African Cup of Nations in 1994, two years before the Olympic triumph of 1996 and he was a stalwart at the heart of Fenerbahce’s backline for the best part of nine years.
The recipient of nearly 50 caps for Nigeria, Okechukwu who was a central defender represented the nation in two World Cups and as many African Cup of Nations, winning the latter tournament once in Tunisia in the year 1994.

He shone at Brondby in the early 90s, winning the league title twice as well as the club’s player of the year award. This earned him a move to Turkey with Fenerbahce where he stayed for nearly a decade, winning two league titles.

After nearly 250 official games, he joined fellow Turkish team, İstanbulspor, returning in 2007 to Nigeria first with Ocean Boys, then with Bayelsa United (joining the latter in July 2008 and retiring shortly after aged 41).

In all, he spent 13 years in Turkey, even going on to obtain citizenship in the country, being known under the name Deniz Uygar. Okechukwu made his debut for Nigeria at the 1990 AFCON, a 1–5 loss to Algeria in their opening game.

He also represented Nigeria at two World Cups, helping it reach two consecutive round-of-16 contests, playing seven matches. He retired after the 1998 edition’s 1–4 loss to Denmark, having been captain many times from 1996 onwards.

Celestine BABAYARO

Date of birth: 29 August 1978 (age 41)
Position: Left-back
Currently: Retired

After being part of the victorious Golden Eaglets team at the Under-17 World Cup in 1993, Babayaro made his international senior debut in the Afro-Asian Cup of Nations in 1995 against Uzbekistan.

The following year, he was part of the Nigerian gold medal winning team at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, making the tournament’s all-star team after scoring in the final against Argentina.

After his injury in December 1997, Babayaro recovered just in time to make the France 98 squad. He was also Nigeria’s captain at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and played in the Korea/Japan 2002 World Cup.

An attacking left full-back by trade, Babayaro often featured higher up the pitch during his time at Chelsea in the Premier League where he became famous for his acrobatic goal celebrations.

He went on to secure a move to Newcastle United after being deemed surplus to requirements by Jose Mourinho who was then the manager of Chelsea. Babayaro retired in 2010 after a spell in the MLS.

Abiodun OBAFEMI

Date of birth: 25 December 1973 (age 46)
Position: Defense
Currently: Retired

The defender was part of the Nigerian gold medal winning squad at the 1996 Olympic games which took place in Atlanta in the United States of America (USA) but never made an appearance.
As a defender who played most of his club career in Germany, Obafemi spent the majority of his football career with the pair of SSV Reutlingen and Fotuna Dusseldorf in the late 1990s.

Kingsley OBIEKWU

Date of birth: 12 November 1974 (age 45)
Position: Defense
Currently: Ingas F.C (Coach)

Another defender who was part of the squad for the 1996 Olympic games which was hosted by Atlanta, one of the cities in the United States of America (USA) but never made an appearance.
Divided the majority of his domestic career between the Nigerian league and the Middle East. He currently coaches Ingas F.C after a brief stint with Benin Republic side, USS Krake.

Tijani BABANGIDA

Date of birth: 25 September 1973 (age 46)
Position: Right midfield
Currently: Retired

Another pacey winger, Tijani Babangida’s international exploits were limited because he often found himself behind Finidi George in the pecking order but after being given the chance in Atlanta, he became an important member of the 1996 Olympic team.
Known for his pace, his playing style was sometimes compared to that of Marc Overmars. Babangida spent the majority of his playing career at Ajax.

Overall, he played in five different countries on three different continents.

At club level, Babangida spent nine years in the Netherlands, playing for VVV-Venlo, Roda JC and Ajax Amsterdam, winning the Eredivisie plus KNVB Cup double with the latter side.
He played over 30 games for the Super Eagles including four at the 1998 World Cup in France. He participated in two African Cup of Nations tournaments and won the 1996 Olympics with Nigeria.

Babangida made his international debut in 1994. He lost his place in the squad right before the 2002 World Cup. After a two-year lay-off from international football, he was recalled to the Nigerian team for the 2004 African Cup of Nations preparations in Tunisia.
He retired in 2004. In the same year 2004, Babangida opened a shopping mall in Kaduna State. And upon his retirement from professional football, Babangida has been working as a football agent.

Sunday OLISEH

Date of birth: 14 September 1974 (age 45)
Position: Central midfield
Currently: Coach – unattached

Sunday Oliseh played 63 international matches and scored three goals for Nigeria, he also played at the FIFA World Cups of 1994 and 1998. Oliseh also participated in the Olympic gold medal winning team of 1996.

Oliseh was voted Africa’s third best footballer in 1998 by CAF. He is mostly remembered for scoring the winning goal in the group stage match against Spain in the 1998 World Cup in France as Nigeria prevailed 3–2.

Despite captaining Nigeria to the 2002 AFCON, he was dropped for the World Cup for disciplinary reasons. Oliseh retired from international football in June 2002 after asking for allowances and dues owed to be paid.

The retired defensive midfielder played for some huge clubs during his time in Europe, including Ajax Amsterdam of the Netherlands, Juventus in the Italian Serie A and Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga.

He later went on to become a coach and he was appointed as the Super Eagles chief trainer in the year 2015 but resigned less than 12 months later, citing a lack of support from the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF).
Oliseh would go on to manage Fortuna Sittard in the Netherlands but was fired in February 2018, claiming that he was actually strangely given the boot because he refused to engage in illegal activities at the club.

Garba LAWAL

Date of birth: 22 May 1974 (age 46)
Position: Central midfield
Currently: Kaduna United (General manager)

Garba Lawal is regarded as one of the most versatile players in the Nigerian national football team of the 1990s and early 2000s often being utilised in any position ranging from the defense to attack on the left wing.

Lawal won the Olympic gold medal with the Dream team in Atlanta, USA in 1996. He represented the Super Eagles at four editions of the African Cup of Nations: 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006, scoring in all but the first one.

He also went on to represent Nigeria at two World Cups in France in the year 1998 and four years later in Korea/Japan. In 13 years of service to his fatherland, he made 57 appearances for Nigeria, scoring five goals.
Lawal has had his most successful time at Roda JC in the Dutch Eredivisie. In August 2009, he announced his return as a player-coach for Lobi Stars and was appointed the general manager of Kaduna United in February 2014.

Austin ‘Jay-Jay’ OKOCHA

Date of birth: 14 August 1973 (age 46)
Position: Central midfield
Currently: Retired

In 1996, Okocha became a key member of an arguably more successful Nigerian side, their Olympic gold winning side at the Atlanta Games, later nicknamed the Dream Team by the Nigerian press after the USA 1992 Olympic gold winning basketball team.

A quick, talented, and skilful playmaker, Okocha usually played as an attacking midfielder and is considered by certain pundits as the best Nigerian footballer ever and as one of the best African players of all time.

In 1998, Paris Saint-Germain spent £14m on Okocha, making him the most expensive African player then. During his four-year stint with PSG, he played 84 matches and scored 12 goals. He also served as a mentor for Ronaldinho during his time in Paris.

Okocha was known for his confidence and trickery with the ball, technique, creativity, flair, close control and dribbling skills as well as his turn of pace and his use of feints, in particular the stepover and his trademark turns.

Due to his skill and nickname, he was described as being ‘so good that they named him twice’, a line immortalized in a terrace chant while Okocha played for Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League.

Okocha lit up the Premier League during his time at Bolton where he spent time as captain and led them to the 2004 League Cup final. He is looking to bid to become president of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) in the future.

He won both the Olympics and African Cup of Nations on the international stage. At club level, he represented the likes of PSG, Fenerbahce and Bolton. Okocha also won the Nigerian footballer of the year seven times between 1995 and 2005.

Victor IKPEBA

Date of birth: 12 June 1973 (age 47)
Position: Striker
Currently: Tv Pundit

Victor Ikpeba played 31 international matches and scored seven goals for Nigeria. He played at the FIFA World Cups in 1994 and 1998, helped win the 1994 African Nations Cup and the Olympic football gold medal in 1996.
At the age of 20 and after scoring 17 goals for Belgian club, RFC Liege in the 1992–93 season, Ikpeba was bought by AS Monaco then coached by Arsène Wenger. At Monaco, he gradually became a success albeit with a tough start.

He showed outstanding form subsequent to the 1996 Olympics, scoring 13 goals to help Monaco win the French Ligue 1 title and also finishing as the second-top goalscorer in the 1996–97 UEFA Cup.

His performances earned him the African Footballer of the Year award in 1997. Under Jean Tigana, Ikpeba was a major part of the Monaco team that knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League in 1998.
At Monaco under Wenger where he spent six successful seasons, he made 169 appearances and scored 55 goals. He spent two years with Borussia Dortmund followed by two short spells in Qatar before hanging up his boots in 2005.

Daniel AMOKACHI

Date of birth: 30 December 1972 (age 47)
Position: Striker
Currently: Tv/Radio Pundit

Daniel Amokachi scored the Nigerian Dream team’s second equalizer in the final of the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games against Argentina. The attacker scored in the 74th minute of the encounter to make the score 2-2.

Amokachi failed to nail down a starting place during his time at Everton but he will be fondly remembered for scoring twice in the 1995 FA Cup semi-final against fellow Premier League rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

The Toffees went on to lift the trophy to provide Amokachi with his only piece of silverware at club level. He has since managed lower league Finnish club, JS Hercules but was shown the way out in the year 2017.

With World Cup performances, he was third in the African Footballer of the Year award three times. As a forward, he was known for his speed, technique and physical strength which earnmed him the nicknames, Black Bull and Black Train.

Amokachi scored the first goal of the UEFA Champions League on 25 November 1992 with Club Brugge beating CSKA Moscow 1–0. He also won the 1994 African Nations Cup with the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

On the 4th of February 2020, Amokachi who is also into TV and radio punditry duties was named as Nigeria’s football ambassador by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).

Nwankwo KANU

Date of birth: 1 August 1976 (age 44)
Position: Striker
Currently: UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

As well as winning the Olympic football gold at Atlanta 96 where he scored the winner in the 4–3 semi-final win over Brazil, his second goal of the match, Kanu participated in the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups.

Earlier on at the start of his career, Kanu was instrumental in Nigeria winning the 1993 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Japan. With five goals, he was second joint-scorer in the tournament with Peter Anosike and Manuel Neira.

Kanu won the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, three FA Cups and two African Player of the Year awards amongst others. He is one of few players to have won the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup and an Olympic Gold Medal.

He made the third-most substitute appearances in Premier League history, appearing from the bench 118 times and is regarded as one of the best players in African football history.

Kanu is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and African brand ambassador for digital TV operator, StarTimes after retiring in 2012. The retired forward is also the owner of Kanu Sports TV, an Internet sports television company.

He founded the Kanu Heart Foundation, an organisation that helps predominantly young African children who suffer heart defects and whose work was expanded to provide aid for homeless children in 2008.
Kanu who played for various top clubs such as Dutch Eredivisie side, Ajax, Inter Milan of Italy and English clubs Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth marked his 44th birthday on Saturday.

Emmanuel AMUNEKE

Date of birth: 25 December 1970 (age 49)
Position: Forward
Currently: Misr Lel Makkasa (Academy Supervisor)

Emmanuel Amuneke played all the games at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, scoring the winning goal in the final as the Nigerian Dream team won the gold medal. He netted the winner against Argentina in the 90th minute.
He had scored the winner in the final of the AFCON in 1994 in Tunisia, in fact, Amuneke netted a brace on that occasion in a 2-1 win for the Super Eagles over Zambia to secure his place in the history books of African football.

The former winger had also appeared twice for Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup and was voted African Footballer of the year. Signed by Barcelona in 1996, he never lived up to his full potential in a career blighted by injury.

He played for Zamalek, Sporting CP, Barcelona and Albacete. Amunike played 27 times for Nigeria, scoring nine goals. He was part of the team that participated at the 1994 World Cup in the U.S, scoring against Bulgaria and Italy.

Amuneke led Nigeria’s U17 team to win the World Cup in 2015. On 6 August 2018, he was appointed as the coach of Tanzania, managing to qualify for the 2019 AFCON but he resigned from training the team after losing all three games.

Teslim FATUSI

Date of birth: 17 September 1977 (age 42)
Position: Forward
Currently: Retired

Teslim Fatusi enjoyed the best moments of his professional career as a football player with the Under-23 side also known as the Nigerian Dream team in the year 1996 where he made three appearances at the Atlanta Olympic Games.

He had a nomadic club career, playing in nine countries ranging from Thailand to the United States of America. He played four games for the Super Eagles, scoring a penalty on his debut in a friendly against Czech Republic in 1996.

Wilson ORUMA

Date of birth: 30 December 1976 (age 43)
Position: Forward
Currently: Football administrator

Wilson Oruma was part of the squad that won the Olympic gold medal in 1996, a year after he debuted for the Super Eagles of Nigeria and also played at the 2002 and 2006 African Cup of Nations, finishing both competitions in third place.

The forward was the top scorer at the U-17 World Championships with six goals for the victorious Nigerian team but only managed to make 19 international appearances for the Super Eagles.

He spent his domestic career in France where he enjoyed successful spells with Guingamp and Sochaux where he won the Coupe de France and also Lens where he won the French Ligue 1 title.
In 2018, Oruma suffered emotional disorder after reportedly being duped. He was broke and in a status of mental disorder six years after he was defrauded by a clergyman and some fake oil businessmen.

It was learnt that Oruma eventually lost a whopping sum which is close to N2 billion to an investment. He has bounced back and was offered a lifeline by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) which employed him.

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