Babangida lifts lid on unusual inside forward role at AFCON 2000

Retired Super Eagles winger Tijani Babangida, has revealed the reason he was instructed to play on the left-wing against South Africa at the African Cup of Nations in 2000.

The traditional right-winger initially struggled with the idea, but the gamble paid off, with Babangida going on to score two goals in the match.

He said, “Well, it was a strategy by the coach, which I found very difficult to accept. We had some issues but the coach insisted I must play from the left and I had no choice but to obey the coach and do his bidding.

I couldn’t do otherwise because he was the coach and luckily, I went in and did my best. I had a memorable game, scored two fantastic goals that are still being talked about in world football today. That was the first time I was seeing a natural right-footed winger operate from the left side, but it is common today in modern football. ”

The former Ajax winger said, “At that time, the system wasn’t regular for you to see something like that. But at the end of the day, it paid off. That is where you could see the ingenuity in Bonfrere Jo, who introduced such a system as far back as the year 2000.

Indeed, it was my first time playing from the left and the first time I saw a right-winger playing from the left-wing. (Babangida did not know that Bonfrere acted on a technical report from a group that went to Kumasi to monitor Ghana/South Africa match which Bafana Bafana won. In the match South Africa’s right back, Mark Fish appeared slow and was always overlapping but with slow recovery rate.”

The group recommended that a very fast attacker be played on the left. That group included late Coach Amodu, Joseph Erico and Onochie Anibeze.

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