BY GODWIN AIKIGBE
Former Nigeria defender recalled how the late Africa’s Pillar of Sports, Chief M.K.O Abiola made him play for the Nigeria national team.
Revealing this during an interview with Supersport.com, the former Southampton and Sunderland player narrated how the then proprietor of Abiola Babes contacted him and ensured he boarded a flight to Nigeria without a visa.
He said: “Chief Abiola made contact with me. His daughter
and husband (Richard Edewor I believe it was) lived in Lancaster Gate and they contacted Sunderland about my availability for Nigeria.
“I got to the airport with my UK passport and I was not issued a boarding pass so I could not get on the flight. I had no visa so quite rightly I was denied boarding. He (Richard Edewor) told the person at the counter to go call his boss. The boss appeared and insisted on the same thing to which Richard told them that they would be in trouble if the President of Nigeria found out these ones here denied a player boarding. Boom, my boarding pass appeared.
Reflecting on his competitive debut against Benin Republic in 1991, which Nigeria won 3-0 at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, Agboola said: “on our way to the stadium the streets were packed with cars and people. I was shocked. As we came off the bus people were touching me, and I asked Iroha when we got into the dressing room why and he said they wanted to be sure I was real. I can’t remember much about the game to be honest. It was incredibly hot and I just tried to keep it simple. I got a lot of encouragement from the fans too”.
Agboola was part of Super Eagles team that defeated Burkina Faso 7-1, with late Rashidi Yekini weighing up with four goals, in a 1992 AFCON qualifying tie in Lagos, where the players had to cut their track down because the kit did not arrive on time for the commencement of the game.
He said: “We knew quite early that the whole kit didn’t come with the team and someone had been dispatched to go get it. So we were waiting. Then the ref came into our dressing room and told us we had 5 minutes or game will be awarded to the visitors.
“Then immediately someone suggested that we cut off the tracksuit bottoms and use as shorts. We did that. Quickly too. And went out to play. I actually framed the cut off trackies and kept it for a long time”.
Agboola played nine games for Nigeria, seven in the Nations Cup and two in World Cup qualifying before calling time on his international career in 1993.
He was first selected by Coach Clemens Westerhof for Nigeria whilst with Sunderland, appearing in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Ghana on 13 April 1991, thus becoming one of the first non-Nigerian born players to represent his native country. The Super Eagles qualified for the 1992 African Cup of Nations in Senegal, and made it to the semi-finals, where they were defeated by Ghana; Nigeria then beat Cameroon in the third place play-off.
After retiring from the game, Agboola returned to Southampton in 2007, where he took up work as a car dealer.