Olympics gold medallist and Super Eagles legend Taribo West has lamented unfulfilled promises to the men’s football team 27 years after they became the first African side to win an Olympic Games gold medal at the 1996 edition in Atlanta, USA.
The retired footballer also claimed that the land allocated to coach of the team Dutchman Bonfrere Jo in Lekki, Lagos had been hijacked.
Thursday August 3 made it exactly 27 years the ‘Dream Team’ soared to victory, clinching the Olympic gold medal in Atlanta, Georgia after beating a Bebeto-inspired Brazil side 4-3 in the semis, before overcoming Argentina 3-2 in the final.
However, while they shone on the global stage and brought pride to the whole of Africa, Taribo, who is now a pastor, said they had not been properly rewarded almost three decades later.
“We have not been celebrated, apart from the time we came in with our medals from Atlanta and former military Head of State, Sani Abacha, held a reception for us in Abuja and gave a lot of money out, but I only saw N1m. From the competition in Atlanta in 1996, the only money that entered my account was N1m that I received personally from Abacha,” Taribo told The PUNCH.
“There were no houses given to us, the only thing we received was landed property that Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who was the Governor of Lagos State then, gave us.
“I heard many other state governors gave us money but we did not see anything, the Nigeria Football Federation was just playing divide and conquer here and there, but when it came to them giving us the money, you won’t see anything. You will just read figures in the papers, but at the end of the day, you won’t see it.
“The Bonfrere land gift in Lekki Phase 3 was hijacked, and as I speak with you, we are still struggling to make sure the land is given back to him. It is only in Nigeria that you labour for something but you won’t be allowed to enjoy the fruits. We have nothing to show for the tournaments we went to, the only thing we get is criticisms in the media.”
Meanwhile, while some of the gold-winning team members like Emmanuel Amuneke, Nwankwo Kanu, Bonfrere and Emmanuel Babayaro reportedly have their medals missing, Taribo, Dosu Joseph and Garba Lawal still have theirs intact and feel a sense of pride when they look at it.
“I feel happy that I was part of the first team that was able to go and win a medal like that. I brought the medal to Africa for the first time, and I felt very happy. It was a good thing that happened to our generation, that we were able to make a mark in our time in the Olympics. It was a privilege to be in that kind of team, and also to win that kind of laurel for Nigeria,” Taribo added.
Retired goalkeeper Joseph said, “I still have it (medal) and anytime I look at it, it brings me happiness. My children have seen it, some of my family members have seen it, I think it’s something to be happy for, this is what we enjoy after retirement.”
Also, Lawal, a midfielder in the squad, told The PUNCH of the pride he feels being a part of the history-making squad.
“The important thing about that medal is the history. I’m part of the history of the Olympics-winning team. The first African football team to win Olympic gold. It’s a big honour, with the mix of great players, I am happy I played with them,” Lawal said.