Muda Lawal: Nigeria’s First Football Ambassador

Mudal Lawal: Celebrated while Alive, Abandoned in Death

Mudashiru Babatunde Lawal, simply known as ‘Muda Lawal’ is a true African football legend and one of the best midfield players to ever grace Nigerian football.

Born in Ijaiye, Abeokuta South Local Government Area of Ogun state, Nigeria, on June 8th, 1954, Muda Lawal played for Nigeria between 1976 and 1985 – and he was the first ever player to attend five consecutive AFCON tournaments from 1976-1982. Albeit, this record was later surpassed by players like Joseph Yobo, Samuel Eto’o and Rigobert Song in the modern era. He was part of the Nigerian team that won the country’s first ever African Nations Cup title, at the 1980 African Nations Cup – and went on to be decorated with two national honours and given the official position of Nigeria’s official Football Ambassador – the very first of its kind!

Muda Lawal’s uprising was an interesting one as he started off as a mechanic before his football talents were discovered, and made his national team debut in 1975. The same year, he joined Shooting Stars F.C. of Ibadan, where he would play for many years. It was a year after he joined the club – in 1976, that he helped the club to their first continental title, winning the African Cup Winners Cup – the first Nigerian team to do so. In 1985, the club was disbanded by a military governor. Muda would, however, return to the side four seasons later as a player/coach.

Muda’s special skill was his dominance in the midfield. The centre of the park was his alone. He fed everyone the ball. He could slow down the pace and notch-up the tempo as he deemed fit. His ball control was something to behold. His sight, covering the field was beyond superb.

For years since 1976, the midfield genius was a recurring name in the final competitions of the Africa Cup of Nations till that of Egypt 1986 which Nigeria missed following a last minute goal with which Zambia eliminated Nigeria in Lusaka. It was Muda Lawal’s final international match.

For that accomplishment of playing five consecutive Africa Cup of Nations finals and featuring without ever being substituted in 24 straight games, Muda Lawal was in 2004 posthumously awarded the CAF Order of Merit in Silver.

Meanwhile, along with the other members of the 1980 Africa Cup of Nations winning squad, Muda was bestowed with the national award of Member of Order of the Niger (MON). That would not be the only national honour he would be given – at the instance of Africa’s First Pillar of Sports, Bashorun MKO Abiola, Muda Lawal on March 14, 1991 became the first Nigerian footballer to be officially designated as Nigeria’s Soccer Ambassador. The honour went with the national award of Order of the Niger (OON). Sadly, he died barely three months after the award. But he is better remembered for his contributions to football in Nigeria.

Mysterious Goalscoring Record

In his 86 matches for the Green Eagles, Muda scored 12 times. However, there is a mystery in goals scored by Muda Lawal. Each time he scored, no member of his team scored again in that match.

Invariably, his goals were always the last for his team. So it was on March 18, 1984 when he opened scoring in the Africa Cup of Nations’ final match with Cameroon. It was Nigeria’s only goal in the match lost by a 3-1 scoreline.

In instances Muda scored, they were the last goals for Nigeria. Consider this illustration: He first scored for Nigeria on March 9, 1976 against Guinea in Dire Dawa; it was Nigeria’s only goal at the match in which Guinea scored a last minute equalizer.

His next goal would come against Egypt, it was the winning goal of the March 14, 1976 match.

Further, when he scored two years later on July 14, 1978 against Mali at the 3rd All Africa Games in Algeria, it was the last goal of the encounter which Nigeria won 3-1. Again his goal against Malawi on July 25, 1978 was Nigeria’s last in the match.

Muda also scored the last goal in the 5-0 defeat of Benin Republic in a friendly match of November 9, 1979 in Lagos just as his goal was the last in the 3-0 defeat of Algeria at the 1980 Africa Cup final.

When he opened scoring against Tanzania in a World Cup qualifying match on December 6, 1980 in Lagos, it turned to be Nigeria’s last goal of the match that ended in 1-1 draw.

On October 3, 1981, Nigeria beat Liberia 3-0 in a friendly match. The last two goals were scored by Muda. So, when he scored early in the 1984 Africa Cup final match against Cameroon little wonder, no other Nigerian player could score in the game Nigeria lost 3-1.

Muda Lawal’s Stats:

AFCON Tournaments: 5
AFCON Medals: 4 (Gold; 1980, Silver; 1984, Bronze; 1976 & 1978)

Caps: 86
Goals: 12
Position: Midfielder
Preferred Shirt Number: 4

Mudal Lawal: Celebrated while Alive, Abandoned in Death

Just like in the case of Samuel Okwaraji and Rasheed Yekini, to mention but a few, the Nigerian football body is caught with an act of abandoning their football heroes in death – an attitude for which Nigerian successive administrations are notorious of. The gross failure to maintain and preserve infrastructural facilities (named after these national heroes) is a fact to the negligible act of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF). One may not be so taken by surprise here, given the fact that there is hardly a state of the federation where public property is not crying for rehabilitation. An example of these ‘crying infrastructural facilities’ is a sports complex named after Muda Lawal in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital.

It was during his funeral ceremony that the Ogun State Government publicly changed the name of the stadium from Asero to Muda Lawal as a mark of honour to immortalize Lawal who was an indigene of Abeokuta.

The supporting spectators’ seats, which form semi-circle round the football field, are said to now be habitat of reptiles because of its state of abandonment. The source exclaimed that he could not remember the last time he saw spectators watching any game at that spectator space.

“This stadium has suffered too much of neglect. But because we have nothing to do, we all keep watching it. My point remains that the stadium can generate revenue for the government if it is well maintained,” a source asserted.

It is sad that the Nigerian government prefers to be unfulfilling in celebrating their national heroes, who gave thier all to their fatherland, even in death. To the Nigerian government, nothing matters again once their football heroes passed on – a despicable act we can only hope they realize and turn their backs against.

Even though he gave up the ghost on July 6, 1991, yet Muda Lawal forever remains a pride to his state and indeed a national hero, having brought honour, fame and won laurels for his dear fatherland.

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Author: Victor Mascot

A simple man with liberal values

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