Lagos — After 19 years in the wilderness, the Super Eagles yesterday bounced back to rule Africa again when they defeated the Stallions of Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final match of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Home-boy, Sunday Mba scored the only goal of the match in the 40th minute and the Super Eagles held on to secure their third continental crown, and their first since 1994.
The victory over Burkina Faso did not come on a platter of gold as the Eagles had to dig deep into their armoury of football tactics and skills to subdue their opponents.
The Super Eagles last won the Nations Cup in 1994 in Tunisia when Dutchman Clemence Westerholf held sway as the Technical Adviser of the team. But after that historic moment, it has been tales of woes for the fans of the Super Eagles as the team could not translate its potentials into results that would fetch it the ultimate prize in African football. With yesterday's victory over the Stallions of Burkina Faso, the Super Eagles are now third in the hierarchy of nations that have won the Africa Cup of Nations trophy.
Egypt have won the trophy a record seven times and is followed by Cameroon and Ghana which have won four times each. Before now, Nigeria was tied on two titles with DR Congo which won in 1968 and 1974.
The Super Eagles first won the Africa Cup of Nations when it was known as the Unity Cup in 1980 when Nigeria hosted the championship. The then Green Eagles coached by Oto Gloria defeated Algeria 3-0 in the final played at the National stadium Surulere Lagos for Nigeria's first title.
Christian Chukwu who later coached the Super Eagles was the captain of that victorious squad that included talented players like Late Mudashiru Babatunde Lawal, Chief Segun Odegbami, Justice Adokie Amasiemeka, Henry Nwosu, Emmanuel Okala, Late Alloy Atuegbu and a host of others.
After the victory in 1980, it took the Eagles 14 years to win the Nations Cup again. Although the Eagles did not win the trophy till 1994 in Tunisia, the team was consistent in its participation at the AFCON.
Justifiably, the Eagles got two silver medals in the process. The Super Eagles as the team was rechristened after winning the second trophy in 1994, won their first silver in 1984 after losing that year's finals 3-1 to the indomitable Lions of Cameroon.
Morocco hosted the 1988 edition and the Super Eagles again clinched another silver medal when they lost 1-0 to the same Lions of Cameroon. The Super Eagles had third consecutive silver in 1990 in Algeria when they lost 1-0 to the host country in the finals.
As if weighed down by the law of diminishing returns, the Super Eagles dropped from second place to third at the 1992 edition in Senegal when they notched a sweet revenge by beating the indomitable Lions of Cameroon 2-1 to clinch their third bronze medal in the history of AFCON.
The Eagles stormed back in 1994 to win their second trophy in South Africa but disappeared almost immediately following the suspension handed Nigeria by the Confederation of African Football, CAF, for the country's decision to pull out of the tournament at the last minute. Nigeria was protesting against the apartheid policy of South Africa.
Consequently, Nigeria was effectively out of the 1996 and 1998 editions of the tournament. The Super Eagles returned in full force after serving the punishment to win their second trophy in 1994 in Tunisia. Interestingly, the present chief coach of the team, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi was the captain of that victorious squad. One of his assistants, Daniel Amokachie was also a member of that all conquering team.
However, instead of the team to build on that momentous moment in Tunisia, the Eagles lost their wings and were unable to either match or better the performances of the squads of the 1990s. It was then an era of bronze medals for the Eagles.
Jonathan, Mark, Tambuwal hail Eagles
President Goodluck Jonathan and other leaders yesterday congratulated the Super Eagles for their "stunning victory" in the final of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa yesterday.
Nigeria beat Burkina Faso 1-0 through a 40th minute goal by Sunday Mba. In a message posted on Facebook, Jonathan said: " I am overjoyed at the stunning victory of the Super Eagles which has seen Nigeria emerge as the champions of the Africa Cup of Nations 2013.
"Well done patriots, you have done Nigeria proud. 2013 is obviously the year of Nigeria.
"We have emerged as the beacon of hope on the African continent by proving to Africa and the world that a strong Nigerian team put together and trained by a Nigerian coach can stand the test of time and successfully rise to the challenge of the most formidable opponent.
"I doff my Fedora hat to this great squad that has brought laughter and happiness to our homes, ' Jonathan said.
Senate President David Mark, who watched the match live in South Africa, urged Nigerians to savour the victory and use it as a rallying point to further the peace and unity of the country currently challenged by unabating insecurity.
Senator Mark, who led the Federal Government delegation to watch the final of the 2013 African Cup of Nations in South Africa, was pleased that the victory of the super Eagles has offered the needed elixir and tonic to boost the peace and unity of Nigeria.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who congratulated Nigerians over the victory of the Super Eagles said the House of Representatives will host the victorious Super Eagles during a plenary.
In a statement issued in Abuja by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal described the victory as sweet, reassuring and a reaffirmation of the superiority of Nigeria over other African countries both in football and other areas of human endeavor.
He said the Eagles have not only regained the hearts of supporters the world over with their mesmerizing display, they have also lifted the spirit of the nation.
The Speaker said the unity of purpose shown by the team and their handlers reaffirmed the notion that when all hands are on deck, achieving common objective will be a lot easier.
In Lagos fire crackers greet Eagles' victory
As the final whistle go to signify the end of the final match between Nigeria's Super Eagles and Stallion of Bourkina Faso in the final of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in South Africa, Lagosians who were overwhelmed by the victory poured out onto the streets and celebrate the victory.
Thousands young men and adults, many drab in the national colours trooped to the ever busy Lagos-Abeokuta expressway and sang victory songs.
As they sang these songs, many lighted fire crackers just as they do during new year celebrations.
"It's mission accomplished this evening", a Super Eagles staunch supporter, Mr. Layi Olakunle said.
Jubilation in Kaduna
In Kaduna, football fans last night took to the streets in celebration of the victory of the Supper Eagles at the Nations cup finals. Old men and women, as well as youths in must parts of the state organised fireworks while others went round town raising Nigeria's flags in jubilation.
In Kakuri, Sabon Tasha, Romi and Nasarawa, it was gathered that some night clubs were opened free in celebration of the victory.
Speaking to Daily Trust, Luka Yunana said they were out to show patriotism over the trophy which eluded the country in the last 20 years.
"We believe in Nigeria and pray that this year good things will continue to come to our country. We believe in Nigeria and call on our leaders to do the right thing. If they do the right thing, Nigeria will be a better place to stay," Yunana said.
For Bala Ibrahim in Kakuri, there can't be better times for Nigeria than now. "We are calling on our leaders, both elected and appointed to always do things that are right. Every Nigerian you see in the street today wants everything to work well for in this country. If things work well, the happiness we are having today will continue."
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) last night saluted the Super Eagles for the victory.
NLC in a statement by its vice president Comrade Issa Aremu said, "at a time politics and politicians on the continent are increasingly boringly unimpressive; Nigeria's victory at AFCON 2013 commendably offered some excitement for the citizens. Nigeria's victory at this competition shows that there has always been (and indeed) there is still a country."
David Ngobua, Isiaka Wakili, Turaki A. Hassan, Abbas Jimoh, Sunday Isuwa, Kaduna and Femi Akinola