By James Agberebi:
Former Nigeria international, Tijani Babangida, has revealed that Bafana Bafana of South Africa's 1996 Africa Cup of Nations triumph as hosts marked the beginning of their rivalry with the Super Eagles of Nigeriain international football, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
The Super Eagles, as African champions, were stopped from taking part at the 1996 AFCON in South Africa due to political reasons by the then military Head of State, late General Sani Abacha.
After nine competitive games with Bafana, the Super Eagles have won six and drawn three.
Ahead of today's 2019 AFCON Group E qualifier in Uyo, Babangida stated that the debate about who was the best team in Africa back in 1996, was the genesis of the rivalry.
"When Nigeria failed to attend the 1996 Nations Cup, South Africa came up with a good generation of players and became champions," Babangida whose brace against the Bafana in a 2-0 semi-final win at the 2000 AFCON , told Completesportsnigeria.com.
"At that time, even before Nigeria was prevented from taking part at the 1996 AFCON, Nigeria at that time was the best team in Africa. But some believed the South African side would beaten Nigeria to rule Africa.
"We eventually met at the Cup of Nations in 2000 and we beat them, and since then, whenever Nigeria and South Africa played, both side never took it easy.
"So I believe the rivalry dates back to when the Bafana won the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations."
Babangida stated that Nigeria's continued dominance over South Africa is a mental thing.
"One of the reasons why Nigeria have continued to dominate South Africa is that aside from having more talented players, there is the issue of jinx against Bafana.
"When you want to play a team and whatever you do they will always prevail over you, it becomes psychological. So I believe that is why Nigeria have continued to have the edge over South Africa."
And on the highly anticipated 2019 AFCON qualifier today in Uyo, the two-time AFCON star (2000, 2002), tipped Nigeria for victory.
He added:"Nigeria are going to parade one of the best teams for a long time. It is a team of very young players and a lot of them newly invited and want to show Nigerians what they can do and that will make it difficult for South Africa."