Like many others my age, I cannot remember who told me about this match, but it sure was credible enough for me to remember the tale, as others could (with some slight variations), to this day.
It is the tale about that great football match (that never was) featuring Nigeria and India. Interestingly, only Nigerians seem to know about this match, while most Indians (including the few I’ve come across) know nothing about it.
Considering that the main dramatis personae died in 1972, one would juxtapose that the framers of this phantom game placed the time of the event to be sometime around the late 1960’s and not beyond 1971. Apart from Teslim Balogun aka “THUNDER” who died in 1972, for whom a stadium in Lagos was named, there’s no other area of agreement amongst the pundits regarding other members of the team; once a while Ogedengbe’s name will surface as the man in goal on the auspicious day for Nigeria. No mention is made at all as regards the names of the Indian players.
Seeing that many Nigerians were said to have witnessed this game (though all I’ve accosted relate same in the second person), it is trite to situate this phantom game at the National Stadium in Lagos (which has become only a shadow of its former glory). They also said it couldn’t have been cricket (which India is notable for, and even has a living god in the person of Sacchin Tendulkar to show for it).
Regardless of how very ridiculous the story surrounding this game is, I’ve come across a few Nigerians who believe that this urban legend truly took place, they buttress their point by stating that India was thereafter banned from international football, a farce that can nowhere bê proven, whilst they forget that India’s inability to attend these football championships boil down to the fact that they do not have a footballing culture, hence cannot even beat the powerhouses of football in Asia to qualify.
Have they ever considered the fact that the presence of Indian players in the Premiership in England is almost nonexistent despite the fact that they form a sizeable number of the British population?
Back to the game. The Nigerian team were said to have played with superhuman agility and gusto, only to find their labour peter out as they approached the Indian goal mouth. They said strikers who got close to scoring would see the keeper turn into a lion, and suddenly
lose their balance for fear, abandoning the ball or kicking it far off the post. Other claims include that the goalpost and/or the ball becomes multiplied that the attacker or scorer becomes confused as to which is the real goalpost or ball. Now, whether it was just the Nigerian players (confronted with this situation) that saw these things or it included the spectators, the framers of this legend do not say.
They say that while Nigerians were finding it difficult to score, Indians were said to be making the goals with scores that you’d find in a Basketball game (before the Harlem Globetrotters change into their super gears for the third and/or fourth quarter). This is because when the Indians take their shot, the keeper (Ogedengbe as some will have it) will see many balls coming in his direction, then he’ll become confused as to the right one, often choosing the phantom one over the authentic one.
At the end of the day, India was said to have mauled Nigeria by about a hundred goals to nothing. Some patriotic ones say it was 99 to 1, in favour of the Indians, and this one comes with its peculiar story. For
“Thunder” Balogun was said to have fired this shot with his bare foot (can’t recall if it was his left or right), possibly via a free kick. The ball was said to have torn the net as it careered to the stands.
Did any of the believers in the authenticity of this fable wonder about the possibility of scoring this much in the space of 90mins of regulation time? I know that 4 clubs that attempted to replicate this feat last season in Nigeria’s lower divisions were banned, with officials involved in the scandal appropriately sanctioned.
By my reckoning that match never took place, it will do better taking its place as one of Nigeria’s urban legends. There is however an interesting aspect of this domination story in football in relation to Nigeria’s economy where Indians and Indian companies have a very strong hold, prospering in terrain where Nigerian as well as conglomerates of nationals of other countries have failed. Bollywood movies showcasing elements of Indian mastery of “JUJU” may have also played a huge role in perpetuating this legend to almost near believability.
Bê that as it may, the contributions Indians have made both positively and negatively to Nigeria in various aspects of its life cannot be overemphasized, but they have never beaten the current African champions at the game of FOOTBALL.