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Nigerians Celebrate Olympic Victory Of Soccer Team

August 4, 1996

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ Ecstatic Nigerians poured into the streets and partied into the early hours Sunday to celebrate the first Olympic gold medal for an African soccer team.

The squad, officially known as the Eagles but nicknamed the ``Dream Team,″ was the toast of youngsters and adults throughout the nation after a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Argentina on Saturday night.

In the streets of Lagos, many people sang the popular song ``O Se O Se O O Se O O Se Baba″ _ which means ``Thank You God.″ Others sang religious songs with a similar theme, and the sound of fireworks was heard in many parts of the city.

Reports said all major streets in Abuja, the federal capital, were filled with celebrating young people, who sang in Ibo, Yoruba and Hausa.

Shortly after the victory, the administrator of Osun state, navy captain Anthony Udofia, said the performance of the under-23 team showed that Nigeria had the potential to emerge as a soccer power.

Sunday papers greeted the gold medal with banner headlines.

``Nigeria Rules The World″ blared The Guardian on Sunday and the Sunday Times. ``Golden Nigeria,″ headlined the Sunday Vanguard. ``It’s a Goooald,″ said the Sunday Concord.

Just before midnight, The Guardian said a mammoth crowd of jubilant Nigerians stormed the newspaper’s office at Ikeja, near Lagos, to register their happiness at the victory.

The Guardian reported that its publisher, Alex Ibru, phoned from England, where he is recuperating from gunshot wounds to his head and hands, and congratulated the country on the victory.

Ibru, shot in February, said the victory was a clear indication Nigerians were capable of achieving great feats, adding ``I am proud to be a Nigerian.″

The Guardian has been highly critical of Nigeria’s military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha. It was banned from publishing for a year and returned to the streets in October 1995.

Abel Ubeku, chairman of the Committee For National Consensus, a political association, congratulated Abacha for ``his solid motivation of the team.″ He pledged $6,173 as a donation to the team.

The Nigerian Sports Development Fund promised $12,346 for every Olympic gold medal. It will have to pay out twice _ to the soccer team and to police inspector Chioma Ajunwa, who won the women’s long jump.

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