Remembering The Nigerian Team That Made History At Marine FC

Remembering The Nigerian Team That Made History At Marine FC 1

The English FA Cup third-round games took place last weekend, and one match that stood out was Marine FC clash against Tottenham Hotspur.

It was a mismatch as Marine were in the eighth tier of English football while Tottenham are one of the contenders for this season’s Premier League title, but a matchup like that is why the FA Cup is special.

Tottenham’s class showed, though, as they emerged 5-0 winners at full-time. But Marine broke their record attendance for the game by selling 30,000 virtual tickets as fans were not allowed to enter due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, before they sold their 30,000 virtual tickets, their previous record attendance was a match against the Nigerian team in 1949, and it had 6,000 people in attendance.

So Who Were The Nigerian Team?

Just before the country gain independence from Great Britain, the Nigerian football team embarked on a UK Tour in 1949.

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According to reports, the team travelled by sea via the Elder Dempster ship, MV Apapa, which arrived at Liverpool on August 29, 1949.

It was the first time the Nigerian team would travel by the season, and the journey from Lagos to Liverpool took two weeks.

Among players in the Nigerian team were Teslim Balogun, Titus Okere, Isaac Akioye, John Dankaro, Okoronkwo Kanu and Etim Henshaw.

A total of 18 players from the four main regions (North, South, East and West) made the trip to Liverpool.

Two days after arriving at Liverpool, the team took on Marine FC at Rosset Park. Nigeria played barefooted aside from Sokari Dokubo who wore canvas.

But that did not stop Nigeria from displaying their authority as they ran out 5-2 winners. The first goal was a well-taken half volley from inside the box.

After the game, Marine FC captain said: Their (Nigerian) feet are harder than our boots. Following the 5-2 victory over Marine, Nigeria played Athenian League XI, but this time they wore boots as their opponents would not play them if they did not wear boots.

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The boots appeared to affect them as they lost 8-0- which was their biggest defeat of the tour. Nigeria won two, drew two and lost five games on their UK tour.

However, it opened doors for Nigerian players to play in the UK. Teslim Balogun, who has a stadium named after him in Lagos, was the first Nigerian export after Peterborough signed him.

ATB Ottun signed for South Liverpool FC while Titus Okere signed for Swindon Town. Since then, many Nigerian stars have featured in all of English divisions.

Currently, the likes of Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi and Semi Ajayi are some of the country’s leading players in England.