In the final episode of African Pride, football analyst Christophe Bongo reflects on the World Cup history of Nigeria's Super Eagles as they ready themselves for their first match in Russia this weekend.
The Super Eagles have a rich World Cup history. They are the African team with the most appearances at the World Cup (six), the most consecutive qualifications (three), the most appearances in the Last 16 (three) and the biggest scoreline (3-0 against Bulgaria in 1994).
Bongo's reflection starts with Nigeria's appearance in the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States, which the Super Eagles played in against a backdrop of political and social tension in their home country, and which is fondly remembered by many as a 'golden era' of Nigerian football.
After General Sani Abacha seized power in a military coup in late 1993, international tensions were high, and football became "the tool that Nigeria used to communicate with the outside world".
The fortunes of the national team had served as a barometer to the state of the nation, and a lot of responsibility was placed on the national team to boost the morale of the nation.— Christophe Bongo, football analyst
In fact, Nigeria played under a directive known as "Directive 101", which gave the military regime "carte blanche to interfere" with football, turning the team's performance into a propaganda machine.
Mostly isolated from the news back home, the Super Eagles soared, and finished top of their group. The success went to their head, and they crashed out of the last 16.
Shortly before kick-off in 1998, Abacha died at his villa and was replaced by Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Abubakar made a Super call to wish the Super Eagles Super Luck.— Christophe Bongo, football analyst
The Super Eagles were absent from the World Cup in 2006, but reappeared in 2010 and 2014, albeit with lackluster appearances.
Will 2018 be the year that the Super Eagles soar once again? Take a listen to Bongo's analysis below.
Listen to all five episodes of African Pride with Christophe Bongo below.
This article first appeared on CapeTalk : African Pride: Nigeria's history makers