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Super Eagles rivalry with Cameroon started with us in 1984 (Don’t Miss)

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United States-based former Super Eagles player, Paul Okoku, has revealed that what is known today as football rivalry between Nigeria and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon started 40 years ago, when they met in the final of the African Cup of Nations.

Like the situation at Egypt 2019 AFCON, where the Super Eagles eliminated the Indomitable Lions 3-2 in the city of Alexandra, both teams will clash again tomorrow in Cote d’Ivoire in the round of 16. Okoku went down memory lane, saying that resilience beyond rivalry between Nigeria and Cameroon in AFCON started in their time.

“In the heart of Nigeria, where soccer is more than a sport, it is a legacy. I carry with me a story of determination, rivalry and the unyielding spirit of the Super Eagles. As the AFCON 2023 unfolds, I find myself caught between memories of the past and hopes for the future,” he said.

Okoku said that he was fortunate to be a member of the Super Eagles AFCON 1984 silver medal winning squad that etched its mark on Nigerian soccer history.

“Our journey wasn’t just about victories; it was a testament to resilience and skill. Yet, one match that changed the course of history was the showdown against Cameroon.

“Everyone said we lost because we were inexperienced. That is not the whole truth, as I reminisce. The Super Eagles, far from inexperienced, had triumphed over formidable opponents to secure their place in AFCON ‘84. A goalless draw against Morocco in Benin in 1983, set the stage for an epic battle in Rabat two weeks later, where we emerged victorious against all odds and thus qualified for the AFCON 1984.

“Myself, Isa Sofoluwe and Chibuzor Ehilegbu played in the match, in Rabat, invited straight from the Flying Eagles after returning freshly from the FIFA U-21 World Cup at Mexico ‘83.”

He said playing in the finals of a prestigious, coveted and the highest football tournament in the continent requires a team with significant experience and skill.

“Hence, the idea of being an inexperienced team doesn’t correspond with reality in my mind. We faced a powerhouse, Egypt, in the semifinals. Defying expectations, we conquered the mighty Pharaohs of Egypt, earning a place in the finals. Our performance showcased not just skill but the undying Nigerian spirit.

“I hate to admit it, but our rivalry with Cameroon started with us, the 1984 AFCON team. I am saying this with a wry smile. Let our story be a source of inspiration, not just rivalry that started in defeat. Play with all your heart, and remember, the entire nation is behind you 100 per cent.

“Now, to the AFCON 2024, where a new generation of Super Eagles takes the stage, I, a proud member of the 1984 AFCON silver medal-winning team, will be watching with anticipation. While the echoes of the past reverberate, I wish the current team success, urging them to play with pride, honour, and the spirit of true Nigerian champions.

“As the Super Eagles take to the pitch in AFCON 2024, against Cameroon, they carry the legacy of our great players of the past, the AFCON heroes. It is more than a match; it is a continuation of a story that transcends time, a story of triumph, resilience, and the indomitable spirit that defines Nigerian soccer.

“To the Super Eagles of AFCON 2024, we send you our best wishes: Play well, with pride, and honor the legacy. Good luck, and bring home the victory for Nigeria,” Okoku stated.

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