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Odegbami: What Do You Really Know About Nigerian Football Players In History?

Odegbami: What Do You Really Know About Nigerian Football Players In History?

Do you know that one of the most famous names in the history of Nigerian football, described as one of the best strikers ever, scored only two goals for the national team of Nigeria?

Do you know that a certain famous Nigerian player captained the national team, yet played only once for the country in his entire career?

Do you know the first Nigerian player to score 4 goals in a single match for the country?

Do you know that many famous Nigerian football players only ever played once for the national team?

This article should interest you.

I was reading Dayo Oke’s book on the history of Nigeria’s national team, ‘From UK Tourists to Super Eagles’ again early this week, published some 20 years ago. I took my time to digest and enjoy the well-written historical documentary.

I found out some very interesting things about Nigerian footballers that made me start to take down some notes.

At the end of my exercise I found myself staring at some awesome revelations that deflated so many myths, legends, and assumptions, and birthed new facts and understanding that should tickle all those interested in a technical forensic of football players that have represented the country in 50 years, from 1949 to 1999.

In 1949, it was a hurriedly assembled team of Nigerian players that toured the UK and participated in the first international football engagement of the Nigeria Football Association. Yet the players cannot be listed amongst those that played for the national team. The 9 matches played during that tour were against amateur clubs and not against any national team in the United Kingdom. They do not count, therefore, as full international matches, even though they represent a milestone in Nigerian football history.

After that tour, however, Nigeria started to play international matches, mostly against the Gold Coast (Ghana) and neighbouring countries on the West Coast of Africa.

The following facts derive from Dayo’s detailed documentation and records, and do not cover any player in the period from 2000 to the present.

Meanwhile, I invite readers to read, enjoy and digest just as I did.

Do you know that:

1. The first Black national team to play in England was the Nigerian selected XI of 1949. They played against 9 amateur clubs during their one-month tour of the UK. They played 9 matches, won 2, drew 2, and lost 5.

Also Read: Dare Unveils Moshood Abiola National Stadium; Hails Dangote, Adebutu For Supporting Nigerian Sports

2. Nigeria’s first full international match was against Gold Coast (Ghana) in 1951. It was played in Lagos. Nigeria won by 5-2. Nigeria’s first International goal was scored during the match by ‘Diamond Toe’ Peter Anieke. The first Captain of that match was winger Titus Okere. That was also the last match he played for Nigeria.

3. 4 years later in 1955, captained by Peter Anieke, Nigeria recorded their first heavy loss to Ghana. Played in Accra, Nigeria lost 7-0.


Teslim ‘Thunder’ Balogun

4. Despite being described as one of the greatest players and goal scorers in Nigeria’s football history, Teslim ‘Thunder’ Balogun, only scored 2 goals for Nigeria during his entire career. He scored both goals in a single match against Gold Coast (Ghana) in 1954.

5. Elkanah Onyeali was the second Nigerian to play in the UK as a semi-professional.

6. The only player that ever Captained the national team on his debut match was Godwin Achebe in 1959

7. In November of 1959, in a match against Dahomey (Benin Republic) in Lagos, Nigeria’s Elkanah Onyeali became the first Nigerian to score 4 goals in a match. Nigeria defeated Dahomey by 10–1

8. The first Nigeria to score an on-goal (against Nigeria), was Isaac Nnado in 1959.

9. The first time the Nigerian team wore their new national colours of Green and White and became known as the Green Eagles was against Ghana on October 9, 1960. That was Ghana’s first win over Nigeria on Nigerian soil.

10. The first Junior International football Nigeria ever played was against Ghana in 1961. Two Nigerian players from that squad were later invited to the senior national team and they became amongst the first set of school boys to represent the country at a full international match – Johnny Egwuonu and Mike Nwokedi (The first student-player was Jonathan Nwaiwu in 1955 against the Gold Coast). The Nigerian junior team lost to Ghana in Accra by 5-1.

11. Johnny Egwuonu was the first school boy player to score a goal each in three consecutive matches – against Cameroon (twice) and Dahomey.

12. During the Africa Cup of Nations preliminaries in 1967 in a crucial away match against Ivory Coast in Abidjan, Tunde Disu, a student, played his debut match for the Green Eagles. Nigeria lost by 2-0 and were ousted from qualifying for AFCON.

13. The Green Eagles that went to the Olympic Games in 1968 had 12 players from Stationery Storess, the only club to achieve that feat in Nigeria’s football history. In the team’s best match at the Olympics, against Brazil, 9 of the players in the starting line-up were from Stores. The two ‘outsiders’ were Kenneth Olayombo of Lagos Railway, who was substituted later in the same match by another Stores player, Clement Obojememe, making him the 10th player from one team, and Ganiyu Salami from Leventis FC of Lagos. The team played a deserved 3-3 draw against Brazil!

14. The first player to score a goal against the Green Eagles when the new National Stadium in Lagos was opened was Ghana’s Kwesi Owusu during the first Nigeria/ Ghana Sports Festival in 1972.

15. Haruna Ilerika, one of the most celebrated players in Nigeria’s football history played 24 times for the Green Eagles but scored only 3 goals during his entire career for the national team.


Oliseh and Tijani Babangida

16. Sunday Oliseh, played 35 times, and scored only 2 goals during his entire career in the national team.

17. Richard Owobokiri, a goal scoring machine in Europe club football, played 7 times for Nigeria, and scored only 1 goal against Zambia.

18. There have been very many great players in Nigerian football that made a name mostly playing in the domestic league and/or junior national teams, but only appeared once in the colours of the Green Eagles. The following are just a few amongst, otherwise, legends in their own right:

i. Niyi Akande – WNDC, Ibadan, 1972, against Guinea

ii. Dehinde Akinlotan, Abiola Babes, 1984, Morocco

iii. Amir Angwe, BCC Lions, 1989, against Zimbabwe

iv. Sunday Atuma, Jos Highlanders,1962, against Ghana

v. John Benson, Leventis United, 1984, against Malawi

vi. Tajudeen Disu, Abiola Babes, 1984, against Liberia

vii. Arthur Egbunam, Enugu Rangers, 1978, against Zambia

viii. Rufus Ejele, Airforce, 1978, against Uganda

ix. Samuel Elijah, BCC Lions, 1991, against Togo

x. Godwin Ironkwe, Lagos Railways, 1955, against Ghana,

xi. Yomi Bamiro, WNDC, 1973, against Ghana

xii. Joseph Ladipo (Jossylad), WNDC, 1966, against Dahomey.

xiii. Christian Madu, Enugu Rangers, 1976, against Sierra Leone

xiv. Stephen Musa, Saarbrucken, Germany, 1998, against Iran

xv. Jonathan Nwaiwu, Port Harcourt, 1955, against Ghana

xvi. Alex Nwosu, Enugu Rangers, 1976, against Egypt

xvii. Taiwo Ogunjobi, IICC, 1984, against Morocco

xviii. Chris Ohenhen, Compostela, 1997, against Kenya

xix. Titus Okere, Railways, 1951, against Ghana.

xx. Mike Okotie, Sharks, 1974, against Ivory Coast

xxi. Pius Oleh, Bendel Insurance, 1989, against Gabon

xxii. Anthony Ottah, Bendel Insurance, 1973, against Ghana

xxiii. James Udemba, Vasco dagama, 1981, against kenya

xxiv. Duke Udi, IICC, 1998, against Burkina Faso

xxv. Ernest Ufele, Enugu Rangers, 1970, against West Germany?

xxvi. Zakari John, Abiola Babes, 1983, against Morocco

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  • Aleks 4 years ago

    “17. Richard Owobokiri, a goal scoring machine in Europe club football, played 7 times for Nigeria, and scored only 1 goal against Zambia.”
    I don’t know how many other ‘facts’ are wrong in this article, but I remember Richard Owubokiri scoring the opening goal in Nigeria’s 4-0 routing of South Africa during the preliminary rounds of US 94’ qualifiers. If I still remember, that game took place in 1992. Samson Siasia and Rashidi Yekini scored the rest of Nigeria’s goals, with Rashidi grabbing a brace. It was also the first international game between Nigeria and South Africa.
    If Owubokiri had scored another goal against Zambia as indicated here, then he certainly scored more than one goal for Nigeria.

    • Sanya 4 years ago

      USS 94 preliminary 1st round at the National Stadium, Lagos. After a goaless draw at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, the return leg in Lagos saw Owubokiri and Siasia getting a goal apiece with Rashidi Yekini getting a brace.

      • Aleks 4 years ago

        @Sanya, the 4-0 trouncing at National Stadium, Lagos, was actually the first leg. The game took place on October 10, 1992, while the return leg (a 0-0 draw at FNB Stadium, Johannesburg) took place on January 16,1993.

      • Lord AMO 4 years ago

        Yes indeed.  In that second leg in Johanesburg, Yekini was denied a legitimate goal by the referee who flagged him for being offside even though the pass was made by a south african player.  Interestingly we were also denied a legitimate Ahmed Musa goal recently against same opponents.  

        The thing I remember about this second leg match was how beautiful and green the field looked compared to our own fields we played on.

  • Nawao….

    @CSN i the throway salute o!….
    Una try wellaaaaa….

    So there’s no sport news again abi???

  • I wish to know the Nigerian born coach of the Eagles who was sacked just for losing a friendly match.

  • Sanya 4 years ago

    Chris Ohenhen also played in the 2-1 loss to Cotedivoire at Houohet Boigney Stadium, Abdijan in April 1993. It was a USA 94 preliminary match. It was his flop in that match that led to the invitation of Austin Okocha for the next match against Algeria.

    • Lord AMO 4 years ago

      A game that will be remembered for Siasia’s inexplicable decision to be selfish in front of goal when all he had to do was simply square to Yekini for a tap-in to make it 2-0 and possibly get the 3 points.  Instead the Ivoriens came back and defeated us 2-1.  It opened the door for more playing time for Amokachi if i recall.  Good thing we ended up qualifying for the WC that year or that play could have been looked upon ad being the deciding factor.

    • Adeyinka 4 years ago

      Well said @Sanya. But that was Christopher Nwosu (not Ohenhen)

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