32 years after: Remembering the Dammam Miracle when Nigeria’s Flying Eagles came from 4-nil to defeat USSR
By Kayode Ogundare
February 25, 1989,
On this day, 32 years ago
It was Nigeria’s Flying Eagles versus the USSR
A quarter-final match of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
I remember that day, just like yesterday.
We weren’t expecting anything special from the game
Especially since the Flying Eagles had qualified from their group by the grace of a beautiful solo goal from Christopher Nwosu in the 1-1 draw against Czechoslovakia
On matchday, my friends and I left the table tennis board to go and watch the game inside.
Suddenly, we were trailing by three goals long before halftime.
Goals from Kiriakov (30′), Tedeev (45′) put the Soviets in a very strong lead going into halftime.
They scored again immediately after the restart through Oleg Salenko in the 46th minute.
At that 3-0, me I didnt bother to go back inside for the second half.
Then Kiriakov scored again in the (58′) to make it 4-0 and every hope of a fightback was seemingly extinguished.
But when I heard it was 4-2 (two quick free-kicks from Christopher Ohenhen in the 61′ and 75′), I went to peep from the window and caught the third goal from Samuel Elijah (83′).
Goal number four from Nduka Ugbade (84′) met me seated inside on the floor because by then the whole living room was filled to capacity.
From 4-0 to 4-4!
It was crazy.
Then it went to penalties and luck of the lottery. Anybody could have won it at that point.
32 years later, I can still hear the late Akinloye Oyebanji on NTA screaming:
“He saved it, Emeka Amadi Mfr saved the penalty. Ladies and gentlemen, the Flying Eagles are through to the semi-finals of the U-20 World Cup…”
The Flying Eagles had won 5-3 via penalty shootout.
Back home, there was pandemonium. Everyone went bonkers
Over the years I’ve been privileged to ask some of the players what they did on that day to salvage the situation.
Oladimeji Lawal, Mutiu Adepoju, Nduka Ugbade, Amadi and others all said the same thing:
They just wanted to reduce the tally and make the scoreline a little respectable
But Christopher Ohenhen’s two quick goals gave everyone the belief that they could do it.
The celebrations in their hotel that night we can only imagine.
In the semis, two goals from Adepoju against USA took Nigeria to the final where we lost to Portugal.
But nothing spoil, we had already forced the world to sit up and notice Nigeria.
According to the late MKO Abiola, we were able to defeat the USA and USSR, the two world super powers in the space of four days and that counted for something.
Do you remember where you were on that day, at the Damman Miracle?