The early years

The beginning

Nigeria’s first international was against Sierra Leone in 1949. The team had stopped in Freetown on the way back from the legendary tour of Britain and it was worth it as they won 2-0.

The national team at this point were known as the Red Devils and they began to play regularly following the introduction of the Jalco Cup in 1951. The Jalco Cup was played annually between Nigeria and Gold Coast.

The first Jalco Cup game was played in Lagos in October 1951 and Nigeria surprisingly won 5-0. The result was unexpected because the Gold Coast had just come back from their own tour of England with much better results than Nigeria had achieved two years before.

The Jalco Cup continued until 1962 with games played in Lagos in even years. Nigeria won the cup in 1951, 54, 56 and 58. The cup was shared in 1957 after a 3-3 draw in Accra and in 1962 after a 0-0 in Lagos. It was this competition that started the intense football rivalry that exists between Nigeria and Ghana.

Devils to Eagles

It’s hard to nail down a precise date when the Red Devils became the Green Eagles. Playing in scarlet shirts, the Red Devils nickname was shared with the Port Harcourt Red Devils who were one of the dominant regional teams of the 40s and 50s.

The team had changed colours for an Olympic qualifying game on 1 January 1960 in Cairo against Egypt. Egypt had opted for red shirts and when asked to change, Nigeria went for green and white shirts reflecting the colours chosen for the forthcoming independence.

Even without the Cairo change a change would have come with independence looming in October 1960. There was a new coat of arms and new colours. The country’s colours became green-white-green and an eagle was perched on a shield as part of the coat of arms.

In 1961 the renowned Daily Times sports columnist, Pecos, was the first to call the team the Green Eagles. The name stuck but was not it must be said universally popular in these early days, especially as some saw a Green Eagle as an evil omen.


the early years    1960s      1970s    1980s    1990s    2000    2010


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