Victor Ikpeba Revisits Nigeria’s Epic 1996 Atlanta Olympics Glory

Victor Ikpeba Revisits Nigeria’s Epic 1996 Atlanta Olympics Glory

Edwin Kiplagat
April 22, 2024 at 5:42 PM
In this article:
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  • Nigeria was the first nation to win a football god medal at the Olympics
  • They upset Brazil and Argentina on their way to winning it in 1996
  • Victor Ikpeba has remembered the epic run ahead of the 2024 Games

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The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, USA, remains a memorable day for Nigerian football.

When the Super Eagles took part in the Games, few thought the West Africans would go toe to toe with footballing giants from Europe and South America.

Victor Ikpeba was part of that team that shocked the football world to win gold, the first by an African team.

Nigeria, 1996 Olympics, Victor Ikpeba, Cameroon, Super Eagles, Nwakwo Kanu, Sunday Olise, Taribo West
Nigeria celebrating after winning gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Photo by Ruediger Fessel/Bongarts.
Source: Getty Images

The Super Eagles overcame numerous obstacles on their way to a historic gold medal. Players like Ikpeba, have iconic status in their country.

Dutchman Jo Bonfrere was at the helm, but the foundation of a memorable tournament was laid by Clemens Westerhof, who led Nigeria to the 1994 AFCON title and 1994 World Cup.

Nigeria's journey to the final wasn't easy. They had to face Mexico and Brazil to reach the final.

They overcame Mexico in the quarter-final before evening their earlier defeat against Brazil in the semis. They narrowly beat the Brazilians 4-3 to set up a final clash with Argentina, another football powerhouse.

The World Cup winners fielded Bebeto, Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, and Ronaldo but could not beat Nigeria. Ikpeba was on the scoresheet in that epic clash.

In the final, they upset Argentina by winning 3-2 to etch their names in history books, per CNN.

Ikpeba recalls 1996 Olympic triumph

Speaking to CAF, Ikpeba was overjoyed with their historic win.

"Joy, I was so happy to participate...we Africans have shown that this is possible. It’s a tournament that I will never be able to forget."

Ikpeba was part of a star-studded team comprising legends such as Jay-Jay Okocha, Daniel Amokachi, and Sunday Oliseh. The Monaco legend says their victory over Brazil felt like a miracle.

"During our semi-final against Brazil. It may seem like it does not make sense because on paper, we were not the favorites. It was that golden generation with the likes of Bebeto, Roberto Carlos and Rivaldo. 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 equalized 3-3 to win in 4-3 in extra-time."

Nigeria and Cameroon are the only African nations to win gold at the Olympics.

Ikpeba praises Jose Peseiro

Sports Brief earlier reported on Ikpeba defending Jose Peseiro's record as Super Eagles coach.

The Portuguese tactician led the Super Eagles to the final of the 2023 AFCON, but they suffered a painful defeat to the host nation.

Edwin Kiplagat photo
Edwin Kiplagat
Edwin Kiplagat has five years of experience in journalism working as a Sports Editor at Africa Insight Communications and ESPN. Edwin Kiplagat is a Bachelor's Degree holder in journalism from the Multimedia University of Kenya.