Oliseh reveals how players clash was averted before Atlanta Olympics


A  potential violent players’ clash in the Nigerian camp prior to their opening game at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics was averted after the senior players in the team interfered, former Super Eagles captain and coach Sunday Oliseh has exclusively told Saturday PUNCH 25 years after.

The team’s final training session ahead of their opener against Hungary at the Citrus Bowl, Orlando, which they won 1-0, was overshadowed by “a senior influential player” mocking another player openly during a stretching session.

The senior player, according to Oliseh, told a teammate that his nasal breathing aid plasters were useless as his place would definitely be on the bench following the arrival of forward Nwankwo Kanu.

Kanu, who had just won the UEFA Champions League with Ajax then, reported late to camp in Atlanta as he was trying to complete his move to Inter Milan from the Dutch club at the time.

In the 90’s, nasal breathing aid plaster was used by sportsmen to help reduce respiratory fatigue, increase nasal airflow, reduce shortness of breath and also reduce perceived respiratory effort during runs.

“Our final training session prior to our opening group game was at the central pitch of the Orlando Citrus Bowl stadium proper,” Oliseh revealed in his memoir, which would be published this year.

“One of our players had come to the training sporting the then in vogue nasal breathing aid plaster, to facilitate breathing.

“Another senior influential player teased and mocked him openly during the stretching session saying his plasters were useless as his place in the team will definitely be on the bench now that Kanu had joined the group.

“The violent reaction from the abused concerned was stopped just in time to prevent a full-blown fight on the eve of the Olympics. The aftermath of such a fight would have been disastrous.”

Oliseh, who was one of the outstanding players in the team at that time, added that the U-23 team’s hotel situated along the major Athens highway was burgled during their semi-final clash with Brazil at the Sanford Stadium, Athens.

A golden goal in extra time from Kanu saw Nigeria come back from 3-1 down to win the epic encounter 4-3.

“On the major Athens highway where our hotel was located, further on down the road were some five-star hotels. These hotels were home to other semi-finalists (Brazil, Argentina, and Portugal) at the Olympics. While we were playing the semi-finals, some of these hotels were being burgled.”

Our correspondent, however learnt that only the U-23 team’s hotel was not burgled.

Nigeria went on to defeat Argentina 3-2 in the final to become the first African side to claim the football gold in the global sports showpiece event. Punch


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