Oparaku: My Olympic Gold Medal Is In The Bank Because I Treasure It So Much

Oparaku: My Olympic Gold Medal Is In The Bank Because I Treasure It So Much

Mobi Oparaku has exclusively revealed to Completesports.com that he deposited his 1996 Atlanta Olympic gold medal in a bank for for safekeeping because he treasured it so much.

24 years ago, in Atlanta Georgia, Nigeria entered the records book as the first African nation to win the men’s football event in the Olympic Games following a dramatic 3-2 win against Argentina in the epic final.

Oparaku, now Team Manager of Heartland, a Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, side said he did so for his kids and future generations, especially those who cared to have a feel of it.

Reflecting on the success of the U23 Olympic team otherwise tagged Dream Team 1 in the tournament, the former Nigeria defender disclosed that given their level of preparation going into the tournament, their triumph did not come as a surprise.

“After our qualification for the Olympic Games in 1996, we were camped in Enugu, Nike Lake Hotel to be precise for our preseason tournament preparation,” said Oparaku, a former wing-back.

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Mobi Oparaku (number 17) celebrate with Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles teammates at Atlanta ’96 Olympic Games

“Willy Bazuaye (now late) was the chief coach but Bonfrere Jo Was The technical adviser. We had a wonderful but strenuous preparation.

“Team bonding was excellent. Technically, tactically we were ready to go. Bonfrere would explain to each player, what his role on the pitch is. Even when you are on the bench, you already know that you might come in at any moment and what you would do once you come in.

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“Discipline was at its highest level. We had no margin for errors because we know there wasn’t going to be another opportunity for us to play in the Olympic Games Soccer we were all determined to make the best of the opportunity.

“We left Enugu for Lagos where we spent two days before traveling to Atlanta, USA, for the tournament. I remember we were airlifted by British Airline to London Andrews to Florida, USA, for the Olympic Games”.

Oparakui disclosed that after the famous 4-3 defeat of Brazil in the semi final via the golden goal scored by team captain, Nwankwo Kanu, they began to ‘smell’ the gold medal.

“We lost to Brazil in our group game. So when we got to meet them again in the semis, we knew it was going to be tough,” he said.

“During our preseason match discussion, Bonfrere told us a bit of adjustment in our game plan. He told us that if we stick to it, victory would come.

“Particularly, he charged us that it would be in our best interest to ensure that we Avenged that earlier defeat. He also reminded us that the Brazilians would be banking on psychological advantage but we mustn’t fall for it.

“We got the message and tactical shift but before we could settle down or properly adjust, they had taken the lead.

“But when we got back to our stride, we rolled up our sleeves and put our engine on, they realised they were up against a different, a recharged Nigeria Dream Team”.

The Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games Was The first tournament the ‘golden goal’ rule was experimented and Nigeria benefitted hugely.

Thereafter, FIFA cancelled it just as Was The kick in’ experimented in 1993 FIFA U17 World Cup in Japan. In Japan then, Golden Eaglets harvested a number of goals through the ‘kick in’ instead of throw-in and went all the way to win the tournament.

“We went into extra time (against Brazil) but we were cautious not to concede because if we do at this point, we were automaticcontinued,” Oparaku continued.

Nigeria's Olympic Eagles at Atlanta '96 Olympic Games

Oparaku celebrates Olympic gold success with Nwankwo Kanu at Atlanta ’96

“Those of us at the back, Uche Okechukwu, Taribo West, myself, ensured there was no moment of concentration lapses. We kept awake like the rat and confident that our attackers can exploit any situation upfront. At least, they shouldn’t score us even if we don’t score them.

“But the moment Kanu latched unto that ball and scored, we found ourselves in cloud 9. We realized that we were through to the final. It was a fantastic moment for us because we have gotten our revenge over Brazil”.

The Dream Team were up next against another South American and World football power, Argentina, in the final.

Oparaku recalled: “Like in the game against Brazil, we had to come from behind to win 3-2 against Argentina, in the final. It was like we were in a dream. Amuneke needed to tap in from the free kick after Argentine rushed out, trying to set an off side trap. They forgot the ball in flight rule and we became Olympic Champions”.

As would be expected, the triumphant Dream Team 1 players were handsomely rewarded by Nigeria and State governments as well corporate bodies.

Oparaku added: “We were promised land and I got mine. We were promised that streets be named after us by our state governments in the state capital but that I didn’t get. But I personally paid for a street to be named after me in Owerri and that’s the street I’m living now. My gold medal? It is in the bank. I kept it in the bank because I treasure it so much. I want my children and even whoever that cares in the future to see it”.

The Heartland Team Manager rated the present football in the country low, compared to their days back in the 1980s and ’90s.

“The game has gone down badly these days. Back in our days, it was high but now, no, no, no”, he frowned.

By Sab Osuji

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COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 17
  • Francesco A 3 weeks ago

    From U23, he was getting exposed in the Righ back position. He was a disaster at WC98. Mobi never progressed beyond U17 football unfortunately. All the same i and other Nigerians were very happy for his dedication in service.

     
    • Oakfield 3 weeks ago

      Oh, I see. You started watching football in 1998???

       
    • Hammed Olayinka 3 weeks ago

      He was fine at the (1996) Olympics, first choice player all through.

       
  • Who be this one.

     
    • Emecco 3 weeks ago

      What do you mean by ‘who be this one’ ??, Mobi is an Olympic gold medalist and also MON, give him some respect.

       
    • Footballfanatic 3 weeks ago

      Probably a millenial that doesn’t know shit about 1996…..idiot.

       
    • Disappointment smh

       
    • Presh 3 weeks ago

      All I can say he wasn’t a bad player. Sometimes let learn not to criticise too much. He wasn’t that bad. I watched his games. 

       
    • Oakfield 3 weeks ago

      @ Stan, if u really knew this guy you’ll understand that your fashionista calamity yobo was just a learner when compared to this guy. He was such a no nonsense clinical defender that belonged to the 96 class but I’m not surprised tho bcs you’ve just shown and confirmed that you’re just a little kid who just started watching football yesterday. U belong to the indomie generation hence I’d advise you to keep quiet, follow and learn whenever football matters are discussed here.

       
  • Common guys! Mobi Oparaku was a decent player. Fine! he wasn’t world-class but he wasn’t bad either

     
  • Indeed, Moni Oparaku was a very decent right full back in his days. I think he could not rise above the shortcomings present by his height and petit stature.

    He started the game against Spain in what remains to be (arguably) Nigeria’s finest hour in the Fifa World Cup in which a 3:2 victory provided false hopes of a team that could reach the quarter finals in 1998.

    That team indeed had the qualities talent wise to push for a place in the semi-finals of the 1998 world cup. But, lacking in uniformity of purpose, camaraderie and discipline to power Nigeria to greatness, they fell like a pathetic pack of cards in the 4:1 humiliation against Denmark in the second round. A performance eclipsing the victory against Spain.

    As for Oparaku, his own world cup and meaningful Super Eagles career ended when he was substituted for Rashidi Yekini in 69th minutes of the match against Spain with Mutiu Adepoju deployed to shore up his right full back position that had been clearly suspect all through the match.

    In fact, Spain’s second goal just after restart in 47 minutes had been scored because a glorious long ball from the middle of the park by Hierro had looped over Oparaku whose last ditch efforts with his outstretched legs still came short of preventing Raul (spotting jersey number 10)to race through and stab home with a volley made in heaven.

    That would be the last time the Spanish would breach our defences as Mutiu Adepoju’s deployment to the right fullback position helped to make our backline bulletproof for the remainder of the game.

    Adepoju would go on to play Oparaku’s right full back position for the rest of the tournament.

    A class act in under 23 football, Oparaku could neither exert nor impose himself compellingly in senior team football. However, his willing combative nature and desire to go the extra mile – despite his shortcomings – endeared him to many Super Eagles fans who followed the game at that era.

    Even to date – as can be seen from a sample of contributions above – very few fans have anything negative to say about his contributions.

    Mobi Oparaku – not a legend, but a star in his own rights.

     
    • Pompei 3 weeks ago

      MOBILITY was a skillful, hard tackling right back. Full of running, and he was good at crossing the ball. He played with both feet. Very dynamic player. His weakness was his height. However, most strikers were not able to take advantage of that, to Mobi’s credit.
      In that superb game against Spain, I still recall Mobi stretching his short legs to no avail, trying hard to stop the ball from getting to Raul Gonzalez. He failed comically, and the rest, as they say, is history.
      In my opinion, before that error, Mobi was playing well. His short legs not reaching the ball notwithstanding, he should have been allowed to continue playing in the tournament. Instead, Multinovice decided to sub Mobi, and deployed Mutiu, an attacking/central midfielder, to right back. That move disrupted the team, and may have been responsible for their sub par performances in subsequent games, including the 4-1 bashing received from Denmark in the second round.

       
      • Muliti-novic… Lol

        🙂 🙂 🙂

        Someone wrote at the time: Muliti-rubbish.

         
        • Pompei 3 weeks ago

          He is also known as MULTI-NONSENSE and MULTI-USELESS, lol!

           
  • @Oakfied they never bone you when i started watching football.

     
  • Omo9ja 3 weeks ago

    This is my guy. Oh, I love you too much Mobi. Tested and trusted. Realaible, dependable. Mr. No nonsense. Chai, I still remember those days when Eagles has what it takes to rule the world.

    This is the reason why I am working tirelessly to scout for the best of the best for Nigeria. In the end, I hope that our coaches will utilize the products so well.

    But if they put them on the bench like Onyekuru and co, kai, I won’t take it easy with them o. Ire o. God bless Nigeria!!!

     
    • Omo9ja 3 weeks ago

      “Team bonding was excellent. Technically, tactically we were ready to go. Bonfrere would explain to each player, what his role on the pitch is. Even when you are on the bench, you already know that you might come in at any moment and what you would do once you come in.

      “Discipline was at its highest level. We had no margin for errors because we know there wasn’t going to be another opportunity for us to play in the Olympic Games Soccer we were all determined to make the best of the opportunity.

      “The game has gone down badly these days. Back in our days, it was high but now, no, no, no”, he frowned”.

      This is why Nigerians will keep remembering 80 and 90s teams.

      There’s no passion in football like in the past.

      However, in this interview, Oparaku has explained everything and I hope the current Super Eagles coaches, the players and other national teams of Nigeria will have one or two things to learn from it.

      Most especially, coach Rohr. He always talked his players down. Even if you realized that your opponent is better then your team, you have to make it known to your team that impossible is not, yes they can win against the best teams in the world.

      For this one, I give it to Oga Westerhof, Oga Jo. Oga Keshi and Oga Siasia.

      I said it on here few days ago that for you to have a winning team, your players must known the purpose of bn in the team and in a tournament and must have a role to play in the team. The gaffer must also have freekicks specialists, penalties specialists and team leaders in the team.

      The dream team 96 were very confident that they could beat any team. Can the current gaffer install this spirit into the current team? I don’t know. Are the coaches of the Super Eagles team are technically and tactically sound?

      This is the reason why I said NFF should please hire an expert for the Super Eagles. They can get Jo on board if NFF have no trust in our ex players.

      Mr. Jo is always ready to help Nigeria. He can help Oga Rohr. Even, without paying him huge amount of money, I’m pretty sure that he can help or support coach Rohr and Yobo. Good interview from Mr. Mobi Oparaku. What a fantastic memory. Hmm. Ire o. God bless Nigeria!!!