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ATLANTA 96: WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT SUPER Eagles PLAYERS THEN – BONFRERE

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The Super Eagles players’ winning mentality helped the country to win the gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, according to Johannes Bonfrère, a former coach of the team.

While speaking with some sports writers in Abuja on Thursday, Bonfrère said he was still relishing the good memories of Nigeria’s gold medal win at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

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“We worked very hard in all our training sessions. They [1996 Dream Team players] all had a winning spirit. They were not scared of the giant teams they were going to face.

“They defeated Brazil and Argentina who had a good set of players in their teams and we conquered them, because of the determination in each player.

“I told them before their games that ‘you have the gold already in your hands’, and I then asked ‘are we ready to release it?’ and they said ‘no’. That was the spirit that motivated them in their matches.

“They were not ready to release the gold to another country which made us win the gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics,” Bonfrère recalled.

Bonfrère said he craved to remind Nigerians of those glory days and how they could be replicated in the present state of sports in the country.

The former coach said from 1996 till date he had maintained a good relationship with all the players, explaining that there was no better or best players in the team as every player performed his role well.

“They were all good in their different roles as attackers, midfielders and defenders.

“I did not have a best player because they all did well in their different positions,” he added.

At the 1996 Olympics, Nigeria were the surprise winners of the male football gold medal, beating Brazil and Argentina on their way to winning the medal.

‘As good as Gold’

Speaking also, Chikelue Iloenyosi, who was a member of the team, said it was a privilege for coach Bonfrere to visit him, adding that “he was my coach when I was playing in the national team. We still keep in touch and have a good relationship.

“It is a privilege that he came to see me, and we have a programme we are working on, entitled ‘As good as Gold’.

“Although, many of us have stopped playing football, we are still in touch with our coach. He is not only a coach but he has been a father to us”, he said.

Alex Okonkwo, the coordinator of the programme, ‘As good as Gold’, said: “We are celebrating the reunion of the players, which is in line with what Iloenyosi is doing, to ensure that we all stay together.

“We want to use this platform to inspire present and future generations of Nigerians that we can actually win gold, if we want and that is the Olympics story.

“We also want to let the youth (players/athletes) realise that they can achieve things that seemed impossible,” he said.

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