In March 1980, as Green Eagles battled the Desert Warriors of Algeria in the finals of African Nations Cup in Lagos Nigeria, the then National Stadium Surulere was charged with such electrified atmosphere that transformed the arena into a great temple.
The Nigerian President Shehu Shagari joined some 85, 000 fans to worship; amidst blaring trumpets, heavy drumming and songs of praises... the player Segun Odegbami was acclaimed "Shanko the god of soccer" after he scored a brace and helped Nigeria lift African nations cup trophy for the very first time.
That same night and for the first time ever, the whole citizens of the largest Black Country in the world arise in one accord to celebrate and to appreciate "the Nigerian Spirit." It was a whole new feeling of oneness and of fellowship.
Indeed, a new discovery that a mere football sport can transcend into the realm of divinity… to become the only way to experience the oneness of spirit and the unity of faith in a country with so much diversity...
The love, the passion, the following and the devotion have put football in the class of religion. It is a ritual, most teams from Nigeria pray before the start of a game, at half time and when they eventually win a match.
And during major fixtures, both players and fans can go into days of fasting and prayers... inviting Prophets, Imam and sometimes Juju Priest to invoke the god of soccer in their favor. It may sound ridiculous to you, but Nigerian teams had severally worked out miraculous victories. Notable among them is the 'Daman Miracle.'
The people will rather tell you there are three major religion groups in the country Christians, Muslims, Pagans or traditional worshipers... But football has always challenged their devotion and inclination... A simple research can reveal to you that a greater percentage of young people in the country would rather watch a Premier League or UEFA Champions league game than going for a religious meeting.
If that is arguable, what about studying... Young people spend more time watching and reading football materials than say their Bible, Koran... and have more indebt knowledge of the game than the Bible or Koran.
The Nigerian football fans are more sophisticated than the domestic league. They would rather follow top leagues in Europe through their cable TV in their household or viewing center...
Viewing centers are popular in Nigeria. They are scattered across the country just like churches and mosques and serve fans like their own congregations during weekend and mid week.
Of course, the churches and mosques have been trying to get there People back from what they call ''Idol worship' or ''stronghold of the Devil' by forming football outreaches or evangelism to engage the youths; while some has out rightly declared football as the Devil's tool to lure people away from God almighty.