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1996 Olympics

Victor Ikpeba Reflects On Nigeria’s 1996 Olympics Triumph



Former Nigeria international, Victor Ikpeba has recently reflected on the unprecedented run of the country in the 1996 Olympics in which the men’s football squad emerged gold medalists for the first time in the history of any African team at the event.

While reflecting on Nigeria’s run at the football event, Victor Ikpeba who was a very important member of the gold-winning squad attributed the country’s success to divine intervention.

Ikpeba who is currently 50-year-old remembered how no one gave them a chance against Brazil in the semi-final of the tournament but came from behind to defeat the golden generation of the Brazilian side 4-3.

Ikpeba was one of the goalscorers of the historic win which launched Nigeria to the final of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, United States.

“During our semi-final against Brazil, it may seem like it does not make sense because, on paper, we were not the favourites. It was that (Brazil’s) golden generation with the likes of Bebeto, Roberto Carlos and Rivaldo”, Victor Ikpeba told CAFOnline


“In addition, we had lost against them a few days earlier in a group match. But, God was Nigerian that day (laughs). We trailed 3-1 then equalised 3-3 to win 4-3 in extra time. We are qualified for the final stage. And as they say, a final is not played, it is won.”

Nigeria’s win over the star-studded Brazil was one of the happiest moments of most Nigerians of that generation as football enthusiasts took to the streets all night to celebrate the unprecedented victory.

Even football enthusiasts from other countries in Africa joined in the celebration because no African country had attained such a height in football then.

“During the tournament, we had news from the country. After our victory against Brazil, Nigeria was abuzz. The country did not sleep, everyone was outside. Young people, old people, men, women, all religions — everyone was happy”, Victor Ikpeba said.

“It was so beautiful… I cannot forget the support from the continent. We received messages from our brothers from Ghana, Cameroon, Benin, Egypt; all the African people were behind us and also the African diaspora present in the United States, who massively supported us.”


In the final of the 1996 Olympics, the Nigerian Dream Team met with another star-studded South American team, Argentina. To the surprise of most football enthusiasts, Nigeria came from behind to beat Argentina 3-2.

That earned Nigeria its first and only Olympic gold medal in football as the country has managed to win Silver and Bronze afterwards.

“I was so happy to participate. Pride too when I remember the teams that we beat, Mexico in the quarter-finals, Brazil in the semi-finals, then Argentina in the final”, Ikpeba said.

“We Africans have shown that this is possible. It’s a tournament that I will never be able to forget, I gained confidence and more professionalism. For me, there was a before and after the Olympics.

“The year before our victory at the Olympics, my statistics were not so great. I played 23 matches and scored six goals. When I returned from Atlanta, I played 44 matches and scored 22 goals.”


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