Football On Independence Day: What Nigeria, Spain Have In Common On October 1 

10 months ago
1 min read

The world football governing body, Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) want football and politics to seldom mix up but there are cases where it would be absolutely impossible.

Football teams and federations/associations need their government’s support for organization of tournaments, enabling structures and policies

Nigeria celebrates its 63rd independence anniversary today, 1 October 2023.

Sports in general and football in particular have been a huge part of the country’s history with numerous successes culminating in trophy-laden triumphs.

There has also been individual successes and for #football players of Nigerian heritage, one European country, Spain is where they made their names.

Current Enyimba head coach, Finidi George; Emmanuel Amuneke, Victor Ikpeba, Gbenga Okunowo, Samuel Chukwueze, and the late Wilfred Agbonavbare, are some of the Nigerian players – past and present – to have graced the Spanish La Liga, Spain’s top-flight football league.

But something happened on this day (October 1, 2017) in Spain that almost led to some of the players finding themselves in a different country – a country created out of Spain.

As Nigerians celebrated the 57th independence anniversary, Spaniards were witnessing a new vista in their political history.

The people of Catalonia – a region in Spain – were voting in a controversial referendum to decide if they would declare independence from Spain while FC Barcelona (Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia) were due to play against Las Palmas in La Liga same day.

Expecting tensions to be high FC Barcelona requested that the match be postponed but that request was refused.

On 1st October 2017, tensions were indeed high and with chaotic and violent scenes in Barcelona the football club considered calling the match off.

Barcelona ran the risk of being hit with a six-point deduction so they chose to execute their commitment but only on closed doors albeit one fan managed to find his way into the stadium.

Barcelona and Las Palmas were on the opposing sides of the divide.

While Las Palmas were keen to have the country united and had the Spanish flag and date printed on their shirts, Barcelona were in the ‘leave’ camp and used their scoreboard to promote their message.

Barcelona won the football match 3-0 and the separatists were victorious in the political vote.


Izuchukwu Okosi is a Nigerian sports and entertainment journalist with two decades of experience in the media industry having begun his media journey in 2002 as an intern at Mundial Sports International (MSI) and Africa Independent Television (AIT), owners of Daar Communications Plc.


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