Bonfrere Jo relives Atlanta ’96 football golden team, as ex-int’ls reunite
Johannes Bonfrère, a former Super Eagles Chief Coach, said on Thursday in Abuja, he was still relishing the good memories of Nigeria’s gold medal win at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
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.
He added that Nigeria was capable of winning gold in all their events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“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 to win the gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics,” Bonfrère recalled.
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.
“Chikelue Iloenyosi, who is present here today, as a defender played a good role in his position. 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.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, U.S. Nigeria were the surprise winners of male football gold medal, beating Brazil and Argentina.
Speaking also, Iloenyosi said it was a privilege for coach Bonfrere to visit him, adding “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, but 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 they needed sponsors to support the programme.
“The Governor of Lagos state has shown interest in the programme, though we still need the support of private organisations, philanthropists, lovers of football and sports generally to support this dream.
“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) to realise that they can achieve things that seemed impossible,” he said.