The Super Eagles of Nigeria made history on Friday, March 26, 2021, after travelling to the Republic of Benin through a boat trip for their 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match against their West African neighbours.
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The last time the three-time African champions travelled by water was over 71 years ago in 1949 when the Colonial Eagles visited Liverpool for a tour aimed at testing the country’s talents against quality teams.
Super Eagles had to travel to Benin Republic by boat in a bid to avoid the heavy traffic in Lagos that would delay their movement to the airport, and also because of the proximity between both countries (Nigeria and Benin).
What You Should Know
- On Tuesday, August 16, 1949, the Nigerian team departed Lagos through the Elder Dempster Ship, MV Apapa, and arrived in Liverpool, England, two weeks later on Monday, August 29, 1949. While it took the colonial team two weeks to get to their destination, it took the Super Eagles a few hours to reach Benin Republic.
- A total of 18 players made the trip in 1949 alongside few officials including the then Chairman of the Nigerian Football Association, Captain Donald.H.Holley, in the company of his wife. This time, 24 players made the trip to Benin alongside the technical crew led by coach Gernot Rohr.
- While the 1949 team embarked on a tour that would see them play nine goodwill matches, the Super Eagles are in Benin for serious football business as they seek a ticket to the 2022 AFCON in Cameroun.
- The sea voyage in 1949 was the first in the history of the national team. Owing to fears that the players might fall seasick during the two weeks journey, they were made to keep fit by running the ship’s deck several times every morning and evening, none of them fell sick. Also, Nigerian food items filled the ship’s cargo to sustain the squad. Just like it was the first sea travel for most of the players in the 1949 squad, the case is similar with this set of Eagles.
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Some of the players prior to the trip revealed that it would be their first time and it is a bit unusual:
‘Travelling by sea, it is what it is, we can’t use that as an excuse. We know what we have to do mentally and that is to win the match. I have never travelled by sea before.’
‘It will be my first time travelling by sea but I don’t really mind. All that matters to me and my teammates is to wear the jersey, represent our country and win the game.’
I guess we have to be okay with it, I will say it’s a bit unusual but that’s just how it is. If they change it, it’ll be good if they don’t, we’ll be fine but the most important thing is that we get there in one piece, and win the game
‘As long as it is safe and we get there as quickly as possible, then it is fine.’
William Troost-Ekong (Super Eagles Vice Captain)
The Super Eagles will file out against their Beninese opponents on Saturday, March 27, 2021, by 5 pm (West African Time).
Featured Image Source: Punch NG
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