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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | Spotlight

Picky, Picky

A look at the day that was and at what lies ahead at the Summer Games

August 02, 1996|MIKE PENNER

Tough lot, these Nigerian soccer writers.

The greatest victory in the history of Nigerian soccer--a 4-3 sudden-death semifinal upset of Brazil--was less than an hour old Wednesday night and the team's coach, Johannes Bonfrere, and goal-scoring hero, Nwankwo Kanu, were getting grilled.

Question for Bonfrere, angrily posed: "Why are you constantly changing the team and using players who are not fit?"

Bonfrere rolled his eyes and scanned his audience.

"This is the kind of question we get from the Nigerian press men," Bonfrere said. "They are not happy with being in the finals."

Bonfrere glared at the questioner.

"This is a stupid question," he said. "We just beat Brazil and are in the finals. It doesn't matter if you play with 11 players with one leg or two, I'm sorry."

Moments later, Kanu took his turn behind the microphone. Kanu had just scored two goals to knock out the gold-medal favorites--one in the 90th minute to tie it, the second four minutes into sudden overtime to win.

Question for Kanu: "You are supposed to be the leader of the Nigerian team, but today, clearly, Daniel Amokachi was that man. Will this change in the final? Can you reclaim your role as team leader?"

Kanu, slightly exasperated: "You are not in the team, so you do not know. I am the leader. Amokachi is just a player. We play together, but if you are looking for a true team leader, I am the leader.

"We are in the finals. If I am not a good leader, why are we in the finals?"

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