50 Years of Ghana–Nigeria rivalry

By Kofi Owusu Aduonum - Ghanaian Chronicle

THE age-long 'battle' continues when Nigeria's Super Eagles and Ghana's Black Stars enact yet another chapter in the unending "battle" between the two geographical neighbours in far away Angola.

A rivalry that can be traced to the JALCO Cup, an international competition between the two countries, which commenced in Ghana (then Gold Coast) in 1951. Gold coast had won every tie she had hosted in 1951, 1953, and 1955, while Nigeria had also won at home in 1952, 1954, and 1956

The 1955 edition was perhaps the most dramatic, where Nigeria lost by a whopping 7 goals to nil to their remorseless Ghanaian counterparts.

With the legendary Nigerian broadcaster, Isola Folorunso, saddled with the unpleasant duty of commentating to millions of Nigerians from the match venue in Accra, he painfully described each of the seven goals which found Nigeria's net. Helping to rub it in perhaps, Folorunso's partner in the radio broadcast booth, a Ghanaian, announced thus: "Gold Coast 7, Nigeria, nothing!"

It was a disaster to Nigerian football, and even though Nigeria won at home 3-0 the following year at the King George V stadium, the pain of the 7-nil massacre was still very deep.

The 1958 edition of the JALCO Cup was perhaps the most melodramatic. The Black Stars came to Lagos determined to avenge Nigeria's first win on Ghanaian soil. The score was 2-2 when an unfortunate, if not scandalous decision by the centre referee almost completely ruined a match of outstanding quality.

Hell broke loose as the Black Stars, captained by Ghanaian legend Charles Gyamfi, protested the "goal" vehemently. A furious wife of Ohene Djan stormed the field and slapped the centre referee, causing the match to be stopped for twenty minutes.

Somehow, Ohene Djan succeeded in calming down his players as the match resumed but could not produce another goal. Nigeria thus denied the Black Stars any form of vengeance. With that victory, Nigeria led narrowly in their career head-to-head confrontations against Ghana, having won four matches to Ghana's three and drawing the seventh.

After Nigeria's controversial 1958 victory, with Peter Osugo of the Daily Times describing that winning "goal" a "most unacceptable one", there was no love lost between the two countries, and the JALCO cup annual competition died a natural death.

When Nigeria celebrated her Independence in October 1960 and decided to invite the Black Stars to participate in the joyous occasion, climaxed by an always eagerly anticipated football match-up between the two countries, it proved to be a costly mistake for the celebrants.

Ghana wanted vengeance, regardless of the fact that Nigeria invited their neighbours to join their Independence "party." With both countries fielding their stronger teams, the Baba Yara-led Black Stars handed Nigeria a 3-nil bashing right there at the National Stadium in Lagos.

Jalco Cup may have been a thing of the past, the rivalry between the two countries continued as each was sure to cross each other's path in different international tournaments.

The 1960 Olympic Games qualifier was one of the competitive matches between the two countries after the cancellation of the annual JALCO CUP. Towards the 1960 Rome Olympics, Nigeria, Ghana and Egypt were grouped together to fight for the sole African ticket to the soccer event at the Games. Nigeria lost the chance to qualify when the Green Eagles lost 4-1 to Ghana after having beaten the Black Stars 3-1 in Lagos two weeks earlier.

Two years later, Ghana and Nigeria were matched together, this time for Africa's sole ticket to the 1962 World Cup finals slated for Chile. Again, the Black stars prevailed by handing Nigeria another 4-1 bashing in Accra after earlier forcing their hosts to a 2-2 draw in Lagos.

Qualification for the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico provided another opportunity for Nigeria to try Ghana for size. This time, the outcome was different as the Green Eagles followed their 2-1 victory in Lagos with a hard-fought and deserved 1-1 draw in Accra.

In 1973, at the 2nd All-Africa Games which Nigeria hosted, the Green Eagles beat Ghana 4-2 on their way to winning the gold medal. But the overflowing joy of millions of Nigerians was shortlived when, only two months later, the Black Stars returned to Lagos and caused a monumental upset by defeating hosts Nigeria 3-2 at the National Stadium, Lagos. What happened immediately after the shock defeat is better forgotten than recanted as hoodlums descended on the visiting Ghanaian team and burnt their bus.

When Ghana hosted the African Nations Cup in 1978, both countries were in the same group, in which the Green Eagles forced the hosts to a 1-1 draw before Ghana went on to win the Nations Cup for a third time.

However, the bitter rivalry between Ghana and Nigeria resurfaced in the qualifiers to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. In the second round of the qualifiers, the Green Eagles drew 0-0 with Ghana in Lagos only to travel to Accra to surprise the Black Stars, beating them 2-1.

Ghana and Nigeria clashed again at the Africa Nations Cup hosted by Cote D'Ivoire. In Bouake, Nigeria defeated Ghana 2-1. Ghana and Nigeria met again at the 1992 Nations Cup in Senegal, where eventual runners-up Ghana defeated Nigeria 2-1 in the semi-final with an incredible Abedi Pele's header from a corner kick.

Nigeria was later to be matched against Ghana in the qualifiers towards the France 98 World Cup finals, with the Super Eagles trouncing the Black Stars 3-0 after a goaless draw in Accra. In Mali 2002, Nigeria again prevailed over Ghana 1-0 in the quarter-final stage, and it was the same scoreline when the two clashed at the last edition of the Nations Cup in Egypt, with Taye Taiwo scoring the lone goal of the match.

The last clash of note between the two countries occurred in London last February at the Brenford's Griffin Park. Even though the match was classified as only an international friendly, followers of the age-long competitions between the two neighbours knew that any confrontation between the two countries would be everything but friendly.

Nigerian and Ghanaian residents in London certainly did not buy the "friendly" stuff. To them, it was time to secure bragging rights. The manner of Ghana's convincing 4-1 slaughter of Nigeria was even just as humiliating as the 7-nil massacre at the Accra Sports Stadium in October 1957.

On current form, the Black Stars appear to have an edge for match in Angola.