Myth or Fact: When India Beat Nigeria 99-1

Last Updated on May 26, 2023

Are you even Nigerian if you’ve never heard the story that India beat Nigeria 99-1? For most people born in the 90s and early 2000s, this is one sports story that shaped the vast majority of their childhoods. We discussed it on the stony fields and in our classrooms. Some of us even dreamt about it. This was one of our many bedtime stories.

The word on the street was that India had won a friendly match against Nigeria. And not just any win; it was a drubbing that had never been seen before – and will most definitely never be seen again. 99 goals to Nigeria’s 1? How true can this be? There are only 90 minutes in a football match, meaning they must have scored each goal in seconds! Could this really be a true story?

Some of the events surrounding the story could make it real. For example, to us, this explained why India never participated in any global football competition. But did this really happen? Well, if you’re ready to put your childhood memories on the line, you’ll find out here. This is the story of how India beat Nigeria 99-1.

Did India Beat Nigeria 99 1?

Controversy Surrounding the India-Nigeria Football Match History

Right from the inception of this story, people have raised and continued to raise contrary opinions regarding its authenticity. There have been countless claims that the match never happened and the India-Nigeria football match was all a fabricated story. But was it really fabricated?

Other accounts say that India last qualified for the world cup in 1950 and that they have not been active ever since then as they were not even good enough. Therefore, it was impossible for them to have had a match with Nigeria.

But it was a friendly match…not a world cup.

So, maybe it did happen then.

Some people also claim it was a world cup and not a friendly match. We’re sure you want to know the story, fabricated or not.

Birth of the Match Idea

It was a few months after the Nigerian Civil War, and the then military Governor of Lagos, Brigadier General Mobolaji Johnson (retired), perhaps got bored. Or he really wanted something to ease his stress and that of his people caused by the just concluded war. He then decided to stage a football match against Ghana but was advised against such an idea. His advisers reminded him of the shameful defeat Nigeria had suffered against Ghana prior to the time. So, he changed his mind.

A quick explanation of what transpired; Nigeria and Ghana had an Independence day match in 1960, and Ghana mercilessly whipped Nigeria 3-0. This history shouldn’t repeat itself, and Ghana was dropped as an option. Besides, they needed a weak team so they could fulfill the purpose of the exhibition, which was to win.

Finally, the advisers suggested teams they thought were weak, they suggested Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, the United States, and India.

India versus Nigeria match

The Final Pick – India versus Nigeria

After little or close to no deliberation, India was picked. They had to be easy to ridicule by the mighty Green Eagles.

Only if they knew!

As it should be, India was informed, and they agreed but gave conditions; three special conditions. Hmmm, what could they be?

  • The match much be played barefoot (no soccer boots),
  • If Nigeria scores a goal, India would accept defeat and surrender,
  • Goals scored by Indian players would be added up as three goals, but Nigeria’s goals maintain a single count.

Highly ridiculous conditions, isn’t it? Is this a football match or what? But Nigeria agreed because they assumed India’s inexperience in football; they considered it fair enough.

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The D-Day!

Agreements and preparations were made, and D-day finally arrived! The India-Nigeria football match started at the whistle of Algerian referee Mohammed Touati. The 22 players for the game were already set (all barefooted), and the game began at the whistle.

The game had started, and yes, the commentators were ecstatic, expecting it to be a walk in the park for Nigeria.

Before the players or anybody knew, India scored!

Goaalll!!!….. The Indian fans screamed at the top of their voices. The Green Eagles were lost.

How did that happen? What just happened? This wasn’t part of the script. Did the keeper sleep off? No way they had just conceded a goal to arguably the worst team on the planet.

India now has 3 goals due to the previous agreement.

India 3- Nigeria 0.

“You are no match for us!” the Indians got cocky. The Nigerian players set out for revenge. They passed the ball as they should, but to their and everybody’s surprise, India had a second score. What in the world…!? An Indian striker had grabbed the ball midfield and played a shot into the air.

The keeper, Peter Rufai (some sources say it was Ike Shorunmu, who really knows?), dived to the wrong side??, and India scored again!

Goaaallll… India now had 6 goals to Nigeria’s 0.

Everyone was confused, the Nigerian bench, the players, the commentators, and the fans. They had all thought India was never going to be a match for the African giants, but these Asian newbies were giving Nigeria a run for their money.

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An Unlikely Penalty Worsens the Situation

One of the Nigerian players lost concentration while on the ball, and India made him pay. Okala tried to retrieve the ball but made slight contact with the Indian player. As an opportunist, he screamed and dived to the ground pretending to be hurt. Touati rushed to the spot and blew his whistle.

A penalty?!

How could that be? I never even touched him. For a moment, the field was crowded in protest, but it all fell on deaf ears.

Again, India bagged another point, 9-0. This no doubt left everyone dazed, but the Indians continued jubilating with great energy. This was a mammoth hill to climb.

And then, leaving great confusion and bewilderment in the rest of the world, India continued to pile up points, beating Nigeria like a merciless, wicked madam ready to slaughter her maid. A few minutes later, Touati blew the final whistle; it was the end of the first half. Several people had already left the stadium in anger! But regardless, some optimists decided to stay behind.

The Second Half

According to some sources, the second half took a mysterious turn as several occurrences that were beyond comprehension took place. It is said that the players confirmed that the ball turned into a ball of fire whenever they attempted to kick it. This prevented them from playing or attacking any charging Indian player but instead found a safe spot for themselves.

Well, no one wants to die.

Were they only lying to cover up for a shambolic performance, or were they honest?

Another source also confirmed that the players were the only ones that witnessed the occurrences as it looked to every other, including the coaches, commentators, and audience, like a normal football match. According to the goalkeeper, the ball turned into a fireball and the player approaching him turned into a lion whenever any player charged at him.

And at some point, he purposely ran from the goalpost.

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The Nigerian Players Protest

When the Nigerian players couldn’t take it anymore, they protested against the situation. Unfortunately, the referee never believed them, stating they do not believe in such things where he came from. Therefore, the match continued.

The Death of a Hero!

One of the Nigerian players, a true hero to the core, was courageous enough to fire a shot with the ball that had become a roaring lion’s head into India’s net. The ball was said to have turned into a stone during the kick, but he didn’t mind.

Bam! He hit it with all his might and Nigeria finally had a goal. However, this meant he sacrificed his life. Yes, he died.

Samuel Okwaraji slumped and died while playing for Nigeria
Samuel Okwaraji slumped and died while playing for Nigeria. Credit: The Punch Newspaper

This was how many of us were told the great Samuel Okwaraji died.

According to the initial agreement, Nigeria’s one goal meant India would accept defeat and surrender. It didn’t matter if India beat Nigeria 99-1 or even 999. Nigeria had one goal. And victory was theirs. But it came at a cost. His life.  

But the events of this match were too spooky. As the story goes, India was banned from taking part in any football tournaments.

Now, think about it.

Have you ever heard of India taking part in any world football tournament?

None that we know of????.

Did India Beat Nigeria 99-1?

So, did the match really happen? Did India beat Nigeria 99-1? Well, this would break your heart and leave you questioning your childhood because the match didn’t happen. The story of India beating Nigeria by 99 goals to 1 is false. A fabrication.

The person, people, or group of people that came up with this story really had a whole generation fooled. They took their time to construct an intriguing story that caught the attention of many. While there are many accounts of this story, the fact is they lied.

We can forgive them, though, right? Because the story made our childhood fun.  ?.

Considering there are no records of this match ever happening, it’s clear that the story is untrue. None of the aforementioned people ever testified to the authenticity of this story, and the great Samuel Okwaraji died in a different circumstance.

There, you have it. The match never happened.

Then Why Has India Never Participated in a World Cup?

Sorry if it’s hard coming to terms with reality. Haha. But the question remains, why has India never participated in the World Cup? After all, this made the story believable. Well, India has never been at the World Cup because they simply don’t qualify.

The only time India qualified for the tournament was in 1950, after the nations in their qualification group withdrew. But India still didn’t play in the World Cup because the All India Football Federation believed the Olympics was more prestigious.  

So, there you have it. The story of how India beat Nigeria 99-1 is false. But you should probably tell your kids the same story. You know, just to keep the tradition going!

Before You Go…

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