July 28th, 2023 – Stepping backwards to see farther ahead in Nigerian Sports.

Officially, the football season in our part of the world has ended. The European Leagues are also on break, and all national football teams have resumed their march to other continental championships.
Even those ones will soon give way to the annual spell when football goes to sleep for almost 2 months and it’s fanatical followers change gears and start the transfer game when players and coaches become commodities in the open market of European football.

Downunder in Australia, the football season will begin and only pundits that feed on any football matches from anywhere on the planet during this period remind us there is actually other footbàll Leagues outside Europe of any significance.

Meanwhile, during this period most of us reset the buttons of our sports interests. We move over to car racing and follow Louis Hamilton; or to tennis and follow the exploits of Alcaraz, Djokovic, Coco and Nadal. As I write this, I am preparing for the Queens Club and Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

This summer period, a proposed exciting international programme may take me to the Caribbeans for the first time, to the Islands of Trinidad and Tobago, for a business and Investment Conference laced with a heavy dose of sports. It is part of a grander design to kick-start a solid and sustainable link between West Africa and the Carribeans in a collaboration that shall birth a new relationship between old ‘blood brothers’ separated by the Slave Trade, Centuries ago. The ‘cement’ is Sport.

With Sport as a main ingredient we shall return to Our roots, find common grounds of interest, raise up ‘dead bones’ and breath new life into them, create a social, cultural and economic ecosystem, build a common front and agenda, and come together as one to the table of Civilizations, as equal partners, in an emerging New World Order.

I am supposed to be one of the keynote speakers, along with Dr. Allen Onyema, the Chairman of AirPeace Airline, the fastest growing airline in Africa, to open up channels of dialogue between the people of West Africa and the West Indies.
AirPeace Airline also has plans to spread its wings during the period to the Carribbeans.

It is all good and coming together.

Meanwhile, it is not by accident that I have written about the AirPeace Airline ‘Guru’, Allen Onyema, twice in the recent past. The gentleman was a sportsman in his youthful days, team mate to scholar/athletes òf the generation of Folorunsho Okenla, Wole Odegbami, Goke Adelabu and so on, and a staunch supporter of sports, particularly footbàll, since then.

Remember that AirPeace Airline is still an official airline of the Nigeria Football Federation. Or is it not?

Allen has three passions – the welfare of retired and ageing athletes; justice for neglected and forgottèn athletes; and a desire to embark on projects that take sports to new frontiers of exponential growth, hitherto untouched areas of the sports industry.

At the moment, he has taken on the challenge of delving into history to unearth, honour, celebrate and reward forgotten sports heroes.

He also identifies with, and wants to celebrate a particular team in Nigeria’s football history – the 1980 Green Eagles.

And finally, he wants to be part of the most ambitious sports development project in African football history.

For the above reasons, I shall be having a world exclusive conversation with him to be published and broadcast on the global information superhighway this weekend.

July 28th project.
Nigerian sports suffers from a lack of proper documentation of the country’s sports history. That continues to challenge 18th of July projects.

Despite all my effort, I still fall short of collating the names of all the 44 àthletes, comprising 20 Track and Field athletes, 20 football players, 3 boxers and 1 swimmer that were registered to represent Nigeria at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada.
Working with some surviving athletes as well as sifting through documents mostly gathered from the Nigeria Olympic Committee, we now have the full list of the 20 Track and Field athletes, but not so for football.
We have 17 confirmed names, plus 2 that still need confirmation, and one missing name. No one remembers the last name.

Thèse are the names of the athletes to the 1976 Olympics in Canada and the 1980 African Cup of Nations.
The athletes will be honoured, appreciated, celebrated, immortalised and rewarded on July 28th, 2023 in Lagos, Nigeria.
They are as follows:

There a last name, No. 20, that no one has been able to recall. Sadly, none of the surviving members of that squad also remembers. Can anyone else help?

The significance and impact of the two contingents are DIPLOMATiC, hence the location of the activities within the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA and not the Ministry of Sports.

The 1976 Olympic Contingent in Athletics are:
1. Bruce Ijirigho, 2. Felix Imadiyi, 3. Kolawole Abdulahi, 4. Ruks Bazunu, 5. Moses Adebanji, 6. Edward Ofili, 7. Mark Olomu 8. Chuks Abigide, 9. John Okoro
10. Charlton Ehizuelen, 11. Moses Akporowho, 12. Godwin Obasogie, 13. Graywood Oruwari, 14. Modupe Oshikoya, 15. Gloria Ayanlaja, 16. Dele Udoh, 17. Benjamin Omodiale, 18. Olarotimi Peters, 19. Dennis Otono, 20. Taiwo Ogunjobi

In Boxing they are:
1. Davidson Andeh, 2. Obisia Nwankpa, 3. L. Obagoriola

In Swimming
1. John Ebito

1976 Green Eagles to Montreal’ 76 are:

1. Emmanuel Okala, 2. Joseph Erico, 3. Sani Mohammed, 4. Andrew Atuegbu, 5. Samuel Ojebode, 6. Christian Chukwu, 7 Godwin Odiye, 8. Mudashiru Lawal, 9. Baba Otu Mohammed, 10. Jide Dina 11. Adekunle Awesu, 12. Thompson Usiyan
13. Aloysius Atuegbu, 14. Kelechi Emetiole 15. Patrick Ekeji 16. Haruna Ilerika, 17. Segun Odegbami

Two names still need confirmation: 1. Ignatius Ilechukwu 2. Godwin Iwelumo.
Were they there or not?

The names of the 22 members of the 1980 African Cup of Nations Squad are:

1. Emmanuel Okala, 2. Best Ogedegbe, 3. Moses Effiong, 4. David Adiele, 5. Okey Isima, 6. John Orlando 7. Christian Chukwu, 8. Tunde Bamidele 9. Godwin Odiye, 10. Ifeanyi Onyedika
11. Sylvanus Okpala 12. Adokie Amiasimaka 13. Shafiu Mohammed 14. Martin Eyo 15. Frank Nwachi 16. Mudashiru Lawal 17. Alloysius Atuegbu, 18. Charles Bassey 19. Kadiri Ikhana 20. Felix Owolabi 21. Henry Nwosu 22. Segun Odegbami.

On July 28, Nigeria shall witness the re-unification of these great Sports Diplomacy heroes, courtesy of Allen Onyema, Peace Airline, MTN, NTA, NIIA, the Ministry of Sports, and more..

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