By Emeka Obasi

Of the three times Cameroon defeated Nigeria to lift the African Nations Cup trophy, two will fail today’s VAR test. Only their first cup victory makes sense, the others were fraudulently assisted by the referee.

Ever since the Indomitable Lions stole the cup in Lagos 24 years ago, they have been unable to defeat the Super Eagles in any African Nations Cup duel. Their 2-0 loss on Saturday January 27, should send them to their creator asking for forgiveness of sins committed by Idrissa Sarr and Mourad Daami.

On March 18, 1984 Cameroon beat Nigeria 3-1 in the grande finale at the Felix Houphouet – Boigny Stadium, Abidjan. Muda Lawal scored first, in the 10th minute. Rene N’Djeya equalised in the 32nd. Theophile Abega increased the tally late in the second half. Ernest Ebongue made it three six minutes to time.

Nearly 40 years later, both teams met again. Nigeria struck nearly at the time Muda got the opener in 1984. Scorer, Semi Ajayi, is Yoruba, like Muda. VAR canceled the goal. The Eagles scored two more goals to win 2-0. It was at the same stadium.

And the match referees were North Africans. In 1984, a Tunisian was in charge. In 2024, the man at the centre was a Moroccan. Ali Bennaceur, the Tunisian, later became infamous for Diego Maradona’s hand of God goal in 1986.

Issa Hayatou, a Cameroonian, emerged as CAF President in 1988. One of his first assignments was to watch the Maroc 1988 Afcon grand finale between the Indomitable Lions and Eagles. Mauritanian referee, Idrissa Sarr, was in charge.

A beautiful goal by Henry Nwosu was ruled offside. Then a penalty was dubiously given to Cameroon for Emmanuel Kunde to convert. If there was VAR in 1988, the Super Eagles could have won the cup. Sarr was out to impress Hayatou.

In 2021, Sarr told CAF Online: “ In our days, there were less monitoring and supervision and the referees were almost left to themselves”. He was rewarded with appearance in many championships and encouraged his son, Babacar, to join in 2016.

Sarr’s bad record continued to spread. Mariem Chedad was playing soccer, running marathon like Hayatou and a martial artist until Sarr lured her into refereeing. She was one of the Assistant Referees in a FIFA Under 17 qualifying match on June 24, 2022.

Ghana had beaten Morocco in the Accra first leg. The second leg in Rabat ended 2-0 in favour of the hosts. The visitors lost 4-2, during penalty shoot out. Ghana lodged a strong protest against the Mauritanian match officials.

In 2000, it was Tunisian referee, Mourad Daami that gifted Cameroon the cup, in Lagos. After a 2-2 draw at full and extra time, penalty kicks followed. Victor Ikpeba’s crossed the line but Daami failed to record it. That was how Nigeria lost again.

Karma did not spare the Tunisian. Later in the year, CAF banned him for 12 months for trying to influence South African referee, Robbie Williams. It was in the Accra final leg of the CAF Champions League between Hearts of Oak and Esperance.

Karma has continued to deal with the Indomitable Lions since their undeserved victory in Lagos, 24 years ago. Eagles beat them at Tunisia 2004, scattered them at Egypt 2019 and bullied them at Cote d’Ivoire 2024.

Many Nigerian laughed as Milla, Samuel Eto’o and Rigobert Song cried after the 2-0 outcome in Abidjan. Old fox, Milla,  caused the controversial penalty in 1988. Eto’o is his country’s football federation ( FECAFOOT) boss and scored in Lagos in 2000.

Coach Song captained the Lions to tainted cup victory in Eko. In Abidjan, Jay Jay Okocha whose goal in 2000 made it 2-2 was having fun as Nigerians sang a new song – ‘ as e dey sweet us, e go dey pain them’. Rigobert is singing songs of sorrow.

Finidi George is part of Eagles’ technical crew. He played against the Indomitable Lions. Another squad member, Garba Lawal is also in Abidjan, like Nwankwo Kanu who missed a penalty. Segun Odegbami’s younger brother, Wole, was in the team that Sarr robbed in 1988.

Ademola Lookman, the man whose brace bruised Cameroon was just three in 2000. In January 2023, he scored twice, three times, for Atalanta. And this young man rejected Nigeria three times before switching nationality in 2022.

Lookman’s goals mean Milla and Eto’o are looking at Abidjan through the window of the flight taking them back to Yaounde. The Eagles are also gaining altitude, flying higher and  singing more songs of triumph. Rigobert is in the ring, encircled by wounded lions from a diminished nation.