Nigeria’s AFCON Stories Episode 5 – LIBYA 1982 By Henry Nwosu

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Biodata

Full Name: Henry Onyemanze Nwosu (MON)
Date of Birth: 16th October, 1960
Nicknames: None
Start of Football Career: In Surulere, Lagos as a toddler
Clubsides Played For: Bjosons FC, Lagos; Wema Bank, lagos; Johnson Whyte, Lagos; New Nigeria Bank (NNB), Benin; African Continental Bank (ACB), Lagos; Stade Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire; ASEC Mimosas, Cote d’Ivoire; Racing Club de Baffousam, Cameroun
Club Honours Won: CBN Cups with NNB; League winner and Bendel State Challenge Cups with ACB and NNB; Ivorien FA Cup (Asec Mimosas); Cameroun League and FA Cup with Racing Baffousam; WAFU Cup with NNB (twice).
National Team Honours: 1980 Nations Cup Gold, 1988 Nations Cup Silver.
Start of National Team Career: 1979
Opponents/Event: Vs Eastern Europe (friendly), Nigeria won 2-1 and I scored the first goal
First Nations Cup Appearance: 1980 in Lagos, Nigeria.
Most Memorable Event: National team debut

Nigeria's AFCON Stories Episode 5 - LIBYA 1982 By Henry Nwosu 1

THE QUALIFIERS

There were no qualifying matches for the Green Eagles in the run-up to the 1982 Nations Cup, as we were the cup holders having won the competition in 1980 on home-soil.

Nigeria's AFCON Stories Episode 5 - LIBYA 1982 By Henry Nwosu 2

PREPARATIONS AND SQUAD SELECTION

The 1982 Nations Cup in Libya was my second ANC competition, as I had been called up to the national team way back in 1979 and won the Nations Cup title in 1980 in Lagos as the youngest member of the Nigerian team.

The national team coach then, Otto Gloria arrived Nigeria from Brazil in 1979, and he watched me play for Stationery Stores against Leventis in the Lagos Oba Cup semi-finals while I was on leave from New Nigerian Bank (NNB) football club of Benin. He also saw me while I played for Bendel State selection against the national team in a match we lost 2-1. Because of my performances, Otto Gloria decided that I would be an asset to the national team.
I remember my first training with the team. Gloria’s assistant Raul Carlezo saw me and said I was a fantastic player like one Brazilian called Didi. So, Gloria put me into the first team right away at the National Stadium in Lagos.
My first day in camp was nothing special. I already knew most of the players then even though they were my seniors. My room-mate was Moses Effiong who was also my room-mate at NNB. We were camped at the Trade Fair Hotel and, at other times, at the Mainland Hotel, in Oyingbo, Lagos.

The Trade Fair Hotel was then run by the Nigeria Hotels Services and they were one of the best hotel managers in the country. It was a lovely place and of good standard.
For the 1982 Nations Cup, we had some preparations here in Nigeria and we also travelled to Brazil. Some players were screened out but I was retained. Our training was quite modern and there weren’t too many heavy drills. We had Brazilian coaches and not Nigerian coaches I’m sorry to say, so our training was very modern. The Brazilians believed more in tactical drills, though we still did some physical build-up, so I can say our training was a combination of everything. We did ball-work, tactical play, and other normal routines. While in Brazil, we travelled from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paolo and we played many matches.

Otto Gloria had an interpreter in one John Nadi from the northern part of the country. He obviously schooled in Brazil and was also a coach. The NSC (National Sports Commission) brought him in and he was the liaison between the coaches and the players.
I can’t really recollect the friendly games we played in the run-up to the 1982 Nations Cup, but I know we also travelled to England and played Queens Park Rangers (QPR), Bolton Wanderers and Wolverhampton Wanderers. We also went to Iceland and played their national team, as well as Austria but I can’t recollect the results.
After the 1980 Nations Cup, I had become a household name in Nigeria so it was impossible to leave me out of the team. Majority of the senior players with whom I won the Cup in 1980 had retired from the national team, so I had suddenly become a senior player myself compared to a lot of the new-comers.
The likes of Christian Chukwu, Segun Odegbami, Adokiye Amiesimaka had all left. But there were still the likes of Muda Lawal, Best Ogedegbe and Felix Owolabi. Some of the new boys included Rashidi Yekini, Ademola Adesina and Stephen Keshi.
We left for the tournament in Libya I believe, aboard a Nigerian Airways flight, though I can’t be totally sure.

THE TOURNAMENT

We played our first round matches at Benghazi and we were grouped together with Zambia, Ethiopia and Algeria. The hotels we stayed at had Arabic names, so I can’t remember now.
We had R.B. Johnson as our team manager, while Peter Osugo was like the welfare officer. We didn’t really have a camp commandant because the NFA felt we were matured enough and we could control ourselves.
Flying to the tournament was interesting. I was happy as it was my first time playing a big competition away from the 1980 Olympics in Moscow that I attended. My room-mate at the tournament was goalkeeper Austin Fregene. He was a very funny guy and though he always offended me with his addictive smoking habit, I helped him to minimize it.

Food at the tournament were intercontinental dishes, though we were invited to the Nigerian Embassy occasionally where we were treated to Nigerian dishes. We approached games depending on the situation of each match.
We actually started the tournament on a very good note by beating Ethiopia 3-0. Keshi scored two of the goals while Ademola got the third. It was an easy match and we could have scored more. After the match, we didn’t celebrate much because our next game against Algeria was going to be crucial.

Algeria had eliminated us from the 1982 World Cup, beating us at home (2-0) and away (2-1). We were determined to avenge that painful defeat and we started well by scoring first through Okey Isima. But the Algerians fought back and scored twice to win the match 2-1.
To be honest, we were all so disappointed by the outcome of the match and we never recovered psychologically until we met Zambia for our third game. Zambia had also beaten Ethiopia and lost to Algeria so the match between us was a winner-takes-all to determine the second qualifier from our group behind Algeria. A draw would have been to our advantage because we had a better goals average than Zambia but coach Otto Gloria decided that we should play for a win and not a draw.
Unfortunately for us, we lost the match scandalously by three goals to nil. It was an unbelievable result and there were allegations at the time that some players must have collected bribes from the Zambians to throw the game.
No one could produce any evidence of the allegation but as a young man, all I was interested in was to play. After Zambia disgraced us, some of us couldn’t even eat!

MEMORIES

Despite the disappointment of our poor performance in Libya, there were quite a number of other interesting episodes that I can remember about Libya 1982.

The funniest player we had in camp then was a man we called ‘Apo’ Peter Fregene. He was a veteran and had been in the national team since the 1960s and he always made us laugh and gave us lots of gists. The most stubborn player tag should also go to him (Apo). He would put us under control when he wanted to because of our respect for his age, but he would also be the first to make trouble in the squad.
The only quarrel we had in camp was before the tournament when Fregene said the team wouldn’t leave Portugal unless our balances of camping allowances were paid. He told Peter Osugo the welfare officer and coach Otto Gloria that he would seize the plane if we were not paid. Some people felt he was being funny, but others felt he was serious. Later, we were all called to the hotel’s lobby and the issue was resolved.

Compared to nowadays, our camp allowance and match bonuses were peanuts. Per day, we got about N100 as camp allowance, and bonus was about N500 per game except when the FA chairman gave us more money from his own pocket.
Music in vogue then were Juju and Highlife, as well as pop music of Michael Jackson. We usually sang gospel songs in the team bus on our way to matches, but we had no lead singer. I could sing, Keshi too could, Mudal Lawal also sang while Peter Fregene gave us the old school songs. Team prayers before kick-off were also led by anyone, depending on who was motivated.
The NFA chairman was Chief Sunday Dankaro and he was like a father to us and also a great motivator. He was a rich man, so he gave out money to us from his pocket and also assisted in solving our personal problems. The tournament still stands out in my memory because we lost to Zambia who were not a strong side then. Having won the 1980 competition, I thought we could defend it on away soil so it was a very embarrassing moment for the team.

THE AFTERMATH 

You know Nigerians, they hate losers! We weren’t received at the airport. In fact, there was no bus waiting for us. We waited for over an hour before a vehicle came to pick us up. The newspapers really blasted us and they said this was not a team for the country. But they didn’t hit the players individually, they just called for the team to be disbanded.

We got no reward since we didn’t win, but the NFA paid all our allowances and bonuses in full. I can’t recollect now the total amount of money I made, but I can say it was not much but we coped.
I returned to my club NNB, and started with FA Cup and league matches. We were almost winning the league title in the 1982/83 season, until a court order stopped us then.

My biggest regret from the 1982 Nations Cup was that we could not go past the group stage despite being the defending champions. On top of that, we lost 3-0 to a Zambian side that was not strong as of then.
To me 1982 Nations Cup was rather strange. Sometimes in football, you prepare well, play well but you don’t win. If your team doesn’t win now, you should support them to do better next time.
Our 1982 team was okay, we prepared very well, but something went wrong somewhere which I can’t really explain.

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