Virtually everyone born before the invention of the internet must have heard the tale of a nonexistent football match between Nigeria and India that obviously took place in a parallel universe and somehow we got to hear the gory stories of that match.
Though there are many variations of the story, every prevaricator seems to agree on a couple of facts about this fictional football match. Each storyteller agrees that:
1. This match ended with India scoring 99 goals and Nigeria scoring just one goal.
2. Nigerians where unable to kick the ball because the football kept turning to a lion (or something scary) to prevent them from playing the soccer ball.
3. The Indians later agreed that if Nigeria could score a goal, they would concede defeat.
4. Samuel Okwaraji scored the winning goal and lost his life in the process.
5. FIFA banned India from soccer because they used black magic in that very game. With the help of common sense (not that it was absent back then), quick access to information on the internet, every right thinking Nigerian has come to realize that such a story should be filed under “Blatant Lies”.
Why Did This Story Thrive For So Long? Most people like to pass off this story as true with the fact that no one has ever seen India in an International Football Match.
Since no one actually saw India participate in most international soccer games, this gave a little credence to the story. Another reason this lies could thrive for long was the fact that credible information was not readily available at our finger tips.
It not like every Emeka, Audu and Ojo could visit Google in a matter of minutes and tell our ominous fabricators that they should stop spreading toxic lies. And to be honest we have a tingling feeling that this lie was concocted by an elder of a community because, let’s be honest who questions the words of the elders in Nigeria.
Remember, what an adult sees sitting down a child will never see even if he consults Google, Siri or Cortana. The Element of Truth In This Story On the 12th of August 1989, Nigeria lost Sam Okwaraji. Sam Okwaraji was the player rumored to have lost his life in that game when in truth he died during a FIFA World Cup qualifying game against Angola in the 77th minute. He collapsed and died of cognitive heart failure. May his soul rest in Perfect Peace. AMEN.
So that is the only truthful thing about that story, the fact that a Nigerian player died during a football match. That’s it. The match was not against India, we did not lose the match and as you must have guessed, and there were no lions either.
What Is The Deal With India Anyway? India qualified for the 1950 FIFA world cup as a result of the withdrawal of their scheduled opponents.
But the Indian football governing body, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) decided against going to the world cup, being unable to understand the importance of the event at that time.
Some of the Reasons shown by the AIFF included the cost of travel, lack of practice time, team selection issued and valuing the Olympics over the FIFA World cup.
It should be noted that FIFA agreed to bear a major part of the travel expenses, but it did not really help their decision making.
Was India Banned For Refusing To Play Barefoot? No. The 1948 London Olympics was India’s first major international tournament, where a predominantly barefoot Indian team lost 2 -1 to France.
Following the 1948 Olympics FIFA imposed a rule banning barefoot play. The belief that the Indian team refused to play because they were not allowed to play barefoot is not entirely true according to the then team captain who said it was just a story to cover the disastrous decision of the AFIF.
After the 1950 fiasco, India has never come close to qualifying for the World Cup. The reason you do not see India in World Cup competitions is because they do not qualify So Does The Indian Team Wear Soccer Boots? Yes.