Nigeria, Bafana class of ’96 to meet at last

10 March 2014

Two years after democracy came to South Africa, Bafana Bafana won the Africa Cup of Nations on home soil, defeating Tunisia 2-0 in the final in Johannesburg. Missing from that tournament was the Nigerian team, which boycotted the event.

Their boycott came about after Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha had ordered the execution of activist Ken Saro Wiwa, which was criticised by then South African President Nelson Mandela.

Difference of opinion

The Super Eagles, who were the defending champions, claimed that had they participated in the finals, they would have lifted the Cup of Nations’ title. Naturally, the Bafana Bafana class of 1996 felt differently.

Now, those teams – or as close as you can get to those teams, 18 years down the line – will at last get to meet on the field, with a friendly match between the two countries set to take place in the Nigerian state of Kano on 30 March.

South African squad

The South African squad will be announced on Thursday. However, it is known that it will include Doctor Khumalo, John Moeti, Eric Tinkler and Linda Buthelezi.

Stars of a slightly younger vintage will support them, including Benni McCarthy, South Africa’s all-time international leading goal scorer with 32 to his name. He will be joined by former Bafana Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena, Quinton Fortune and McBeth Sibaya.

Nigerian line-up

The Nigerian line-up will feature, among others, Jay-Jay Okocha, Kanu, Emmanuel Amuneke, Daniel Amokachi and Stephen Keshi, the current coach of the Super Eagles, who won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.

1994 Africa Cup of Nations

The 1994 Africa Cup of Nations was hosted by Tunisia. Nigeria finished second in Group A after a 3-0 win over Gabon and a goalless draw with Egypt, which earned them a quarterfinal place.

They beat Zaire 2-0 in the quarterfinals before edging Ivory Coast 4-2 from the penalty spot, after the teams had shared a 2-2 draw, in the semi-finals.

In the final, they overcame Zambia 2-1.

Defender Benedict Iroha, midfielders Jay-Jay Okocha and Daniel Amokachim, and striker Rashidi Yekini, the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals, were all named in the Team of the Tournament.

1996 Africa Cup of Nations

Two years later, in South Africa, Bafana Bafana topped Group A after beating Cameroon 3-0 and Angola 1-0 before sliding to a 0-1 loss to Egypt.

In the quarterfinals, Clive Barker’s charges defeated Algeria 2-1. They then booked a place in the final with a superb 3-0 win over Ghana.

A Mark Williams brace in the final secured the Africa Cup of Nations title for South Africa on 3 February 1996.

Williams and defender Mark Fish were named in the Team of the Tournament, while John “Shoes” Moshoeu finished as the second highest scorer in the event, with four goals to his name.