When about 8,000 fans are allowed into the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos tomorrow, it will be about 10 years since the Super Eagles played in Nigeria’s commercial capital city of over 20 million people.
Lagos was for many years the home of the country’s team and it was in this burstling port city that Nigeria celebrated some of their biggest achievements – Gold medal at the 1973 All Africa Games, a first-ever AFCON in 1980 and qualification for their debut World Cup in 1994.
However, the poor state of the National Stadium pitch and sponsorships mainly by the oil-rich states of Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Delta meant the Super Eagles have moved home across the country.
The Lagos fans are so passionate about good football, they pack stadiums and will boo the home team if the other team are playing better.
“It is exciting that the Super Eagles are going back to their traditional home,” said FCT Football Association chairman, Adam Mouktar Mohammed.
“Lagos and Abuja are the two true homes of the national team.”
Ahmed Musa is the only player on the current Super Eagles squad to have played for the country in Lagos.
He said it was an experience to savour.
“I played in Lagos 10 years ago (friendly vs Sierra Leone in 2011). It was a full stadium with the fans cheering you on,” he recalled.
“My teammates may not understand what it feels like, but when you play in Lagos you have to give everything, the fans will not take anything less.”
“Football lives in Lagos,” added Watford defender William Ekong.
“I see from our trainings that they love their football here.
“We hope we enjoy the full experience tomorrow.”
Sports journalist Oluwashina Okeleji simply put it, “If you play for Nigeria in Lagos, you don’t lose!”
The good news is that the 60,000-capacity National Stadium, just across the Teslim Blogun Stadium where the Eagles will play against Lesotho, is undergoing renovation and it will soon throw open its gates to the national team again.
Before then, the fans will make do with the smaller Teslim Balogun Stadium to celebrate the Eagles much-awaited home coming and qualification to the AFCON with a win against Lesotho in a formality game.