Various Nigerian men national football teams at all age categories have had captains who were very influential and also led their team-mates to pick up one or more trophies. Complete Sports reporter, Sulaiman Alao goes down memory lane to write about the golden skippers of Nigerian football among whom are Christian Chukwu and the late Stephen Keshi…
KELECHI NWAKALI – Captain, Golden Eaglets, 2015
The talented attacking midfielder was the captain of the Golden Eaglets team that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, 2015 where he also won the Golden Ball Award.
Nigeria beat Mali 2-1 in the final to win the title for a current record five times. He later progressed to star for the U-20 and U-23 teams and has one senior cap to his credit.
He is currently with SD Huesca in the Spanish LaLiga 2.
JOSEPH YOBO – Captain, Super Eagles, 2013
Yobo was the captain of the Super Eagles team that won the 2013 African Cup of Nations held in South Africa where Nigeria beat Burkina Faso 1-0 to lift the trophy for the third time.
The former Everton central defender is also one of the most capped Nigerian players alongside goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama with 101 caps apiece.
Yobo was recently appointed assistant coach of the Super Eagles.
MOHAMMED MUSA – Captain, Golden Eaglets, 2013
The versatile defender was the captain of the Golden Eaglets team that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2013.
Nigeria beat Mexico 3-0 in the final. He later featured for the U-20 team and the Super Eagles. He now plays professional football in Europe currently with HNK Gorica in Croatia.
LUKMAN HARUNA – Captain, Golden Eaglets, 2007
Captained the Golden Eaglets team that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in South Korea in 2007. Nigeria beat Spain 3-0 on penalties in the final after playing goaless in regulation time.
Lukman went on to play for the U-20 and U-23 teams and later went on to star for the Super Eagles at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The former Monaco attacking midfielder still plays active football.
NWANKWO KANU – Captain, Dream Team, 1996
Regarded as the golden boy of Nigerian football, Kanu captained Nigeria U-23 team popularly known as the Dream Team to win the gold medal at the Atlanta ’96 Olympics football event.
Nigeria defeated Argentina 3-2 in the epic final. Papilo as the former Arsenal star is fondly called remains the most decorated Nigerian player till date and was twice the African Footballer of the Year in 1996 and 1999. He retired from active football in 2012.
STEHEN KESHI – Captain, Super Eagles, 1994
The Late Stephen Keshi is one of the foremost icon of Nigerian football. Keshi captained the Super Eagles team that won the 1994 African Cup of Nations held in Tunisia where Nigeria beat Zambia 2-1 in the final to lift the cup for the second time.
He also led Nigeria to qualify for her debut World Cup appearance the same year. Keshi was also the first indigenous coach to win the African Cup of Nations for Nigeria 2013.
Nicknamed the ‘Big Boss’ for his charisma and influence, Keshi reputably blazed the trail of Nigerian players’ exodus to play professional football abroad in the eighties. He died on June 7, 2016.
WILSON ORUMA – Captain, Golden Eaglets, 1993
Wilson Oruma skippered the Golden Eaglets team that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Japan, in 1993. He also emerged the tournament’s top goalscorer with 6 goals.
Nigeria beat Ghana 2-1 in the final. Oruma went on to play for Nigeria’s U-23 and the Super Eagles. The former Marseille of Spain midfielder played topflight football in Europe for several years before retiring in 2010.
NDUKA UGBADE – Captain, Golden Eaglets, 1985
Nduka Ugbade was the captain of the Golden Eaglets team that won the maiden edition of the FIFA/Kodak U-16 World Cup in China, in 1985. Nigeria beat West Germany 2-0 in the final. The feat was Nigeria’s first in world football.
The former Castellon of Spain defender went on to star for the U-20 team and the Super Eagles in the 90s. He is currently a coach.
CHRISTIAN CHUKWU – Captain, Green Eagles, 1980
Chukwu was the influential Captain of the Green Eagles team that won the 1980 African Cup of Nations hosted in Nigeria. Nigeria beat Algeria 3-0 in the final played at the Lagos National Stadium to win her first AFCON trophy.
Nicknamed the ‘Chairman’, the former Enugu Rangers central defender is regarded as one of Nigeria’s best defenders ever. He turned to coaching after his playing career and served as Nigeria and Kenya’s coach at some time.