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Sports News of Saturday, 3 June 2023


Damman miracle: The Flying Eagles 34 year record that has remained unbroken

Flying Eagles, 1989 squad in Saudi Arabia Flying Eagles, 1989 squad in Saudi Arabia

The miracle of Damman is a story of resilience and of Nigeria's football.
A story of the never say never spirit of the average Nigerian even as Nigeria is beginning this period of fuel subsidy regime suspension and a world cup quarter final where Nigeria is facing South Korea.

The match

As Nigeria's Under-20 national team, the Flying Eagles of Nigeria square up with South Korea in the quarter final match in the ongoing FIFA Under-20 world cup in Argentina, it wil be good to go back 34 years ago to the edition which as held in Saudi Arabia where a spectacle miracle occured.

It was termed the MIRACLE OF DAMMAN. This was a quarter final match between Nigeria and the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR).

Nigerian had defeated host Saudi Arabia 2-1 in the opener and fell to Portugal by a lone goal.

The Flying Eagles had a one all draw with the then Czechoslovakia to scale through to the quarter final where it squared up with the fearsome USSR team.

Match started and by the second half, the Flying Eagles and Nigeria were trailing behind with 4 goals against.

The team was start studded with like of Christopher Ohenhen (free kick specialist), Mutiu Adepoju (headmaster), late Mike Onyemachara (throwing specialist), Oladimeji Lawal and others and the coast was Tunde Disu.

You can imagine the shock of Nigerians following commentaries on radio that Nigeria was down by four goals.

Those were the days when you monitor matches on radio sets and watch later on television in the night. God help you if you don't develop high blood pressure due to commentaries before then.

Despite the disappointment on the faces of Nigerians, the team struggled and played the game of their lives.

The match was held in the Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium, Damman, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with a 10,000 capacity.

The march was impaired by an Austrian, Hubert Forstinger.

The Soviets had opened scoring with Sergei Kiriakov who scored a brace in the 30th minute, followed by Bakhva Teedev at the 45th and Oleg Salenko at the 46th minutes.

Kiriakov scored again, making it a brace at the 58th minute.

The Nigerians after a hard play retaliated. Christopher Ohenhen scored twice on the 61st and 75th minutes.

This was a shocker. Many Nigerians kept hope up that atleast Nigeria and the Flying Eagles would not go down without a fight.

To the surprise of many, Samuel Elijah scored the third goal on the 83rd minute. The stadium which was previously becoming empty started to fill up again.

Nigerians that have discarded their radio sets now picked them up again. What's happening? This is a football miracle about to happen! Never been heard of before 1989!

Then to the surprise of football pundits worldwide and in a major FIFA competition, Nduka Ugbade scored the fourth goal in the 84th minute, thus bringing the scores to four all.

The stadium was wild with jubilations. The green and white Nigerian flag being waved everywhere.

The streets in Nigeria became wild, people converged before their radio sets, beer parlours and drinking joints became full again.

The game came to an end at regulation time and then to extra time. At the end of 30 minutes extra time, the game went into penalties and Nigeria won the day.

Though the Flying Eagles lost the final match to Portugal but defeated the USA by 2-1 in the semis but the Damman quarter final was the high point of the competition and a milestone record which nother team has broken in the last 34 years.