“I’d have loved to be a part” – Super Eagles legend reveals the one tournament he regretted missing for Nigeria

The former Ajax winger enjoyed a successful career spanning over a decade and a half

Nigeria and Ajax legend George Finidi has revealed his disappointment at not participating in the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, where the country’s U-23 team, later tagged the Dream Team, won the continent’s first football gold medal.

Dutch coach Jo Bonfrere led a 22-man squad of three goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders, and seven attackers to stun the world and make history at the Summer Olympics in the United States of America.

Tournament rules allow every team to include three overage players, with Bonfrere selecting the Super Eagles trio of defensive kingpin Uche Okechukwu, winger Emmanuel Amuneke, and striker Daniel Amokachi.

The three were together with Finidi in the same Super Eagles team that lifted the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia and represented Nigeria for the first time at the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

Finidi even enjoyed greater success than many of his international teammates the following year as a prominent member of the Ajax side that won the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup, and the Intercontinental Cup all in 1995.

By 2004 when he called time on his glittering career, Finidi had added an Afcon silver medal and two Afcon bronze medals to the trophy cabinet that housed three Eredivisie titles he won at Ajax.

Still, the Enyimba International FC’s head coach wished he could have added an Olympics gold to that impressive haul.

“It was unfortunate that I was not part of the overaged players taken to the tournament,” Finidi told Goal.

“I would have loved to be a part of that team, but it was impossible for me to force myself in.

“The coaches picked the players they felt were going to help the team, and I was disappointed not making the cut.

“Nonetheless, we were all happy for the victory, but I would have loved to be a part.”

Finidi started his professional career at Calabar Rovers in 1989 and featured for Iwuanyanwu Nationale and Sharks before leaving for Europe in 1993.

Aside from Ajax, the 50-year-old also starred for Real Betis, Mallorca, and Ipswich Town during his European adventure.

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