1988 African Cup of NationsAFCONFootballHenry NwosuSam OkwarajiSport

With VAR, Nigeria Would Have Won 1988 African Cup Of Nations, Says Henry Nwosu

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Former Nigeria international, Henry Nwosu

• Eagles former captain retires from coaching 

Henry Nwosu was the poster boy of Nigerian football in the 1980s. The former New Nigerian Bank attacking midfielder was so lethal in attack, both for club and country that every ball he kicked ended in the opponents’ net.

Between 1983 and 1988, the former ACB of Lagos captain was Eagles’ highest goal scorer even when he was not the team’s point man. That central striker’s position was occupied at various times by Ifeanyi Onyedika, Fatai Yekini, Bala Alli, Samson Ozogula, Monday Odiaka, Dominic Iorfa, and later, Rashidi Yekini, who eventually made the number nine position his from 1984 to 1998.

Henry Nwosu had some of his best moments in Nigeria’s colours at the 1984 and 1988 African Nations Cup competitions, where, unfortunately, the Eagles ended in the second position behind perennial rivals, Cameroun.

While many African football followers believe that the youthful Nigerian side, led by Stephen Keshi, lost the 1984 final to Cameroun due to inexperience, there are some who say the Eagles would have won the 1988 edition in Morocco if the officiating was fair.

Nwosu concurs with the later opinion, saying that the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun would not have beaten Nigeria if the Video Assistance Referee (VAR) were in use in 1988.

Reminiscing on the epic clash on March 27, 1988 at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca, which endeared another Eagles icon, Sam Okwaraji, to the hearts of Nigerians, Nwosu, whose headed goal in the game was disallowed by referee Idrissa Sarr, told The Guardian that the psychological effects of the defeat, 33 years ago, lived with him for many years.

He said Sarr favoured Cameroun to please Issa Hayatou, who became CAF president on the eve of the competition in 1988.

“Politics denied the Super Eagles the 1988 AFCON trophy.

“The then CAF president, Hayatou, was appointed the president of CAF a night before the final match between Nigeria and Cameroun, so, the referee decided to pander to him be doing everything possible to make Cameroun win the title.

“The goal I scored, which was disallowed by the centre referee, still lingers in my heart because after winning the 1980 title, I wanted to give all I had to win it for the second time. But that hope was shattered by the referee.”

Nwosu said that the Eagles were hungry for success and had better chances of winning the trophy “because we were in control of the game.”

He said, “We, the players, and members of the NFF after the game felt disappointed. We had emotional pains because of the referee’s negative judgment of the goal I scored. But there was nothing we could do.

“The NFF did not protest after the final because they didn’t want to rubbish the competition.

“I heard many years after the game that the referee was sectioned because of his conduct; I don’t know if the information is true.

“If we had VAR in 1988, Nigeria would have won the 1988 AFCON. Cameroun struggled to win the game through a questionable penalty awarded to them after a clash between Sunday Eboigbe and Roger Milla. It was a painful experience,” he said.

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