Nigeria@60: Celebrating 60 of Nigeria’s Sporting Heroes

The list of Nigerians that have excelled in various sports is largely inexhaustible. If there is one thing that has brought so much joy and global relevance to Nigeria in its 60 years of independence, it is the exceptional performances of its athletes.

As the country celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, PREMIUM TIMES reels out 60 of the country’s sporting heroes cut across all fields; including administration.

John Obi Mikel

Mikel is one of the most decorated Nigerian players of all time, little wonder he emerged as the second-best player at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in the Netherlands just behind Lionel Messi.

Mikel, who is one of the only three Nigerians to have lifted the UEFA Champions League, has also enjoyed glowing moments with the Nigeria national teams right from U-17 to the Super Eagles.

He was part of Super Eagles side that won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.

Mikel’s contributions on and off the pitch, when Nigeria won the bronze medal in the football event at the Rio Olympics, remains invaluable.

Florence Omagbemi

Omagbemi was the first female footballer to lead Super Falcons to four consecutive African Women Championship in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004.

This cool-headed midfield generalissimo also featured in four World Cups and was part of Super Falcons side at 2000 Sydney Olympics.

In 2016, she became the first woman to win Africa Women Championship as a player and coach after Super Falcons defeated Indomitable Lioness 1-0 in the final played at Amadu Ahidjo Stadium, Yaoundé.

Kehinde Paul (Powerlifting)

Kehinde is regarded as one of the best Powerlifters in the world and his record in the sports speaks volume about his talents.

He broke 65kg record twice and then stepped up his performance to clinch the gold medal in 220kg at the Rio Olympics.

The Powerlifter was named a Member of the Order of the Niger [MON] by the Nigerian government in 2016.

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Kehinde, an embodiment of sheer determination, says he hopes to set a record that will be unbreakable in the next 10 or 20 years.

Emmanuel Okala

The man mountain, as he was called, was the tallest goalkeeper to have represented Nigeria at the big stage. Playing for Rangers’ International during his active days, it was said that the opposing strikers dreaded his physique between the stick.

He was in goal when Nigeria’s Green Eagles won gold in the football events of 1972 All Africa Games hosted by Nigeria.

Okala is the country’s first African Footballer of the Year.

Ernest Okonkwo

He was the lone voice behind the microphone and one of the pioneers of football commentary in Africa. Fondly remembered not just for his great voice, his ability to give nicknames that best suits one’s sporting talents also stood him out.

Okonkwo was reputed to have coined nicknames for all national team players that many wondered how he came about those names.

He nicknamed Emmanuel Okala as Iron Gate, Christian Chukwu was The Chairman, Yisa Sofoluwe was nicknamed as Dean of Defence and many others like that.

The erudite sports commentator died in 1990.

Godwin Kienka

The little gains by Nigeria on the Tennis court cannot be highlighted without the mention of Kienka.

Kienka, who is presently the director of International Tennis Academy (ITA), tailored his passion for grassroots development by introducing different tourneys for kids and youth.

Aside helping the country to unearth lots of talents, Kienka would also be remembered for his role in bringing world Tennis sisters, Serena Williams and Venus Williams, to Nigeria in 2012.

Olusoji Fasuba

Fasuba proudly remains Africa’s fastest man till date and his record set 14 years ago has not been matched let alone broken.

He was part of Nigerian quartet that won bronze in the 4x100m relay at the 2004 Olympics. Fasuba later picked silver at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Frustrated by poor treatment of athletes, Fasuba ‘prematurely’ quit the tracks to secure the future of his young family.

He joined the British Royal Navy in Oxford, and embarked on a career as Logistician Rating. He never returned to athletics.

Stephen Keshi

There is hardly any success in Nigerian football history past or present not linked to the ‘Big Boss’.

As a player, Keshi won WAFU Cup twice with New Nigeria Bank (NNB). He then moved to Abidjan and played for Stade’Abidjan an Africa Sports.

He also won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 in Tunisia and was at the USA 94 World Cup after which he retired as one of the longest-serving captains of Super Eagles with 60 caps.

Keshi recorded some landmark achievements as a coach; including qualifying Togo for her maiden FIFA World Cup finals in 2006.

He also led Nigeria to AFCON victory in 2013 as a coach, 19 years after doing the same as player.

He died in Benin City in 2016.

Austin Okocha

Jay Jay is regarded as the most skillful African player that never won Africa Footballer of the Year Award despite his immense contributions to African football.

He, however, won the BBC African Footballer of the Year Awards in 2003 and 2004

Though he came into limelight playing for Eintracht Frankfurt at a time racism was the hallmark of German football, Okocha went on to play for some of the best clubs in Europe including Fenerbahce, PSG, and then Bolton Wanderers.

He was part of victorious Super Eagles that won the Nations Cup in 1994 and qualified for the World Cup in the USA.

He stood out as the most consistent Super Eagles player in France 98 World Cup – a performance that earned him a then African record deal with PSG.

Hogan Bassey

This punch-for-punch boxer shouldered the dreams and aspirations of millions of Nigeria and campaigned for honours in the featherweight category.

Hogan was the first Nigeria-British born boxer to become world boxing champion after he shed his blood to win a featherweight bout in 1957 in Liverpool.

He spent most of his life in Liverpool but later returned to Nigeria where he turned boxing coach.

He died in 1998.

Dick Tiger (Boxer)

Tiger occupies the second spot in the pecking order of boxing pioneers in Nigeria.

Born in 1929, Tiger knew boxers could change the world and he did just that. He expressed his disdain for slavery through boxing. He then became the first Nigeria to keep both World Middleweight and Lightweight belts.

Dick Tiger defeated Gene Fulmer in 1953 in a middleweight bout staged at Liberty stadium Ibadan- a fight that was to pave way for a new dawn for boxing in Nigeria.

Anthony Joshua (OBE)

This Nigerian-born British boxer etched his name in the history books of sports personalities whose professionalism and hunger for success helped change the face of sports in Nigeria in the last 60 years.

Always proud of his roots, Joshua has a street named after him in Sagamu, Ogun State.

He also proudly presented his world titles to President Muhammadu Buhari in London to further show his affinity for the country.

Ejike Lucy (Powerlifting)

Ejike is a symbol of brilliance and hard work. She broke the Paralympics and World record three times, to clinch gold in 68kg.

The old war horse attended five Paralympics between 2000 and 2016 winning three golds and two silvers. It was no small achievement that she won gold on her Olympics debut in Greece.

Ejike has paraplegia due to polio after she contracted the illness at age one.

Nduka Ugbade

He was the captain of all-conquering Nigeria 1985 FIFA U-17 side that took the world by storm to win the Kodak World Cup in China. Ugbade was part of the football generation that put Finbars College on the world map.

This hardworking defender won silver in FIFA U-20 World Cup in Saudi Arabia.

Loved for his preference for youth football, Ugbade was one of the assistants as Nigeria U-17 side went on to win the 2013 World Cup in UAE.

Peter Rufai

Peter Rufai came to limelight at the 1984 African Cup of Nation in the Ivory Coast.

He was made the captain of the ship in Ivory Coast because of his leadership qualities as Nigeria settled for silver. Rufai won his first Nations Cup in Tunisia 94 and was solid in goal until Nigeria crashed out of USA 94 World Cup in the second round.

Rufai was also in France 98 but he was a shadow of his former self in that tournament. He was capped 65 times by Nigeria.

He remains a role model to other upcoming goalkeepers, having played for Lokeren, Beveren, Go Ahead Eagles, Farense, Hercules, Deportivo La Coruna, and Gil Vicente.

Nduka Odizor

Odizor remains the biggest Tennis player Nigeria ever produced after he became the first Nigerian to play at the Olympics Tennis event of Seoul 88 summer Games.

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He regularly featured in the Grand Slams in the early and mid-80s.

Nigeria is yet to fill the void left behind by Odizor who had one career title win and seven doubles titles to his credit.

Asisat Oshoala

Oshoala is the undisputed queen of women football in Nigeria and even the poster girl for the game in Africa.

Apart from clinching the Africa Women Championship diadem with Super Falcons three times in 2014, 2016, and 2018, Oshoala has also been superb as far as club football is concerned.

Her success stories at clubs like Arsenal, Dalian FC of China, and Barcelona makes her stand tall in the roll call of players that have come out of the continent.

She has won the CAF Africa Women Footballer of the Year Awards on four occasions in 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019.

Brai Ayanote

This boxing technocrat is regarded as one of the best President Nigeria Boxing Federation (NBF) ever had. He led the country’s boxers to glory at the 1990 Commonwealth Games and 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

He single-handedly appointed top boxing coaches to help prepare Nigerian boxers for major competitions, and when foreign exposure is required, he splashed the cash and bankrolled such trips.

Chioma Ajunwa

More often than not, athletes who switch to sports other than what they’re known for, find themselves on the downward spiral but there are exceptions to every rule.

Ajunwa was a footballer and sprinter all rolled into one. It was a huge surprise when her shocking but stunning 7.12metre first jump earned Nigeria her first gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics thus becoming the first athletes in history to win gold medal for Nigeria at the Olympics.

Innocent Egbunike

Egbunike was expected to be a part of athletes in Azusa Pacific University, but that was far from the case because he still owns the school’s records in 400m.

Known for his dark jerry curly hair, Egbunike is also Nigeria’s record holder in the quarter-mile as his 44.17s time set in Zurich has not been equaled in 33 years

He won Bronze in 4×400 relay at the 1984 Olympics, Silver at the 1987 World Championship in Rome and picked his long-awaited individual gold at 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi.

He was appointed to coach Nigeria track and field team at 1996 Atlanta and Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Sunday Bada

This great quarter-miler will be remembered for the role he played when he anchored Nigeria’s 4x400m relay team which comprised Jude Monye, Clement Chukwu and Enefiok Udo Obong, to win a silver medal (upgraded to Gold) at Sydney 2000 Olympics.

The Kogi State-born athlete’s personal best time was 44.63 seconds, and he holds the African indoor record following 45.51 seconds’ indoor winning time. It’s on a good note that late Bada won three medals at the 1997 World Indoor Championships.

After his retirement, Bada, who was with the Nigeria Police Force, rose to become the AFN technical director, a post he held until his death in December 2011.

Mary Onyali

This 5x Olympian from1988 – 2004 is regarded as one of the best female sprinters Nigeria ever produced. Onyali dominated the stage for decades despite her healthy rivalry with Tina Iheagwan, Chioma Ajunwa, and Endurance Ojokolo among others.

She won the bronze medal in the 4 × 100 m relay at the 1992 Olympic Games and in the 200m at the 1996 Olympic Games. She also won the 1994 Commonwealth Games 100 metres title.

Falilat Ogunkoya

Fali, as she is fondly called, rubbed shoulders with some the world best in the 400 metres during her active years.

She was highly tipped to win 400 meters gold at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, but she settled for the bronze behind Marie Jose Perec of France and Cathy Freeman of Australia.

She is one of the most decorated female athletes in Nigeria with a record 14 career medals (6 gold, 6 silver, and 2 bronze). This African record holder, with a personal best time of 49.10s, is presently the Chairperson of South-West Athletics Federations.

Olumide Oyedeji

This bundle of talent led Nigeria to her first-ever Afro Basket trophy in Tunisia in 2015. A record nine appearances in FIBA Africa Nations Cup in 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2013, and 2015 makes him stand out as an icon in the slamming and dunking game.

A true patriot, who featured in every All Africa Games, Oyedeji’s effort and immense contributions were rewarded with a gold medal in 2011 having won 3 Bronze medals in 1999, 2007, 2015, and a silver in 2003.

Oyedeji has featured in the Olympic Games, World Cup, Commonwealth Games, All Africa Games, NBA, Euro-League, Asia Championships, and South American basketball leagues to become the first African basketball player to participate in major basketball tourney globally.

Oyedeji runs a foundation to foster and empower youths by organising annual basketball clinics.

He retired form the national team at the eve of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Bose Kaffo

Arguably Nigeria’s best ping pong-er after five appearances at the Olympics Games from 1992 to 2008, Kaffo was the name on every lips as far as Table tennis is concerned.

Kaffo was a successful sportswoman in her field winning fifteen medals (seven gold) in singles and doubles at six consecutive All-Africa Games from 1987 to 2007.

She partnered with Abiola Odumosu and Olufunke Oshonaike in the doubles in three Olympics Games and the trio dominated Africa for over two decades.

Segun Toriola

This old warhorse also participated in seven Olympic Games and he is still very much active in Table Tennis.

He remains the most decorated Table Tennis player in Nigeria with a record 13 All Africa Gold medals, 8 African Championship gold medals and two Commonwealth Games gold medals to his credit.

With a whopping 35 medals in his medal’s cabinet, this living legend has etched his name in the sands of time and will be remembered as one of the icons that shaped the face of sports in Nigerian.

Chika Chukwumerije

Little was known of this intelligent, young, and astute son of a former politician, Uche Chukwumerije, until he won Taekwondo gold medal in the Male Heavyweights class at 2003 All Africa Games.

With little or no funding for Taekwondo, his rich dad picked up his training bills and he eventually qualified for the 2004 Olympics but could not make any appreciable impact.

He, however, returned four years later to become Nigeria’s best medal prospect in 2008 summer Beijing Olympics where he became the first Nigerian to win a bronze medal in Taekwondo. Chika was a gold medalist at the 2007 All-Africa Games in the +80 kg class.

Chika will be remembered as the man that changed the face of Taekwondo in Nigeria.

Haruna Ilerika

This iconic schoolboy dribbler sent fans into a frenzy with his soccer artistry.

He was an epitome of body swerving dummies and scintillating dribbling skills that did not go unnoticed by national team coaches.

He proved that he was an embodiment of rare skills when he propelled Nigeria Green Eagles to 1973 All Africa Games gold medal in football.

Ilerika’s historic two equalisers against Egypt at 1976 Africa Cup Nations in Ethiopia made him the toast of Ethiopian girls who offered him a necklace after the game.

He managed 30 caps for Green Eagles and worked briefly with Lagos State Football Association (LAFA) board before his death in 2008.

Festus Onigbinde

The former teacher and game master turned coach came into limelight in 1984 when he paraded a bunch of rookies at the African Cup of Nations in former Ivory Coast.

Onigbinde is credited for the discovery of late Stephen Keshi, who was just 22 years old, Rashidi Yekini- 20 while Yisa Sofoluwe and Sunday Eboigbe were 16 years olds when they represented Eagles in 1984.

Nigeria went on to pick silver after losing 3-1 to eventual winners Cameroon. On his second return as Super Eagles manager at the eve of the 2002 Korea Japan World Cup, Onigbinde sparked public outcry after he randomly picked untested players to represent Nigeria at the World Cup.

Criticised for his melancholic nature on the touchline, Nigeria scored one goal in three matches to bow out of Korea/Japan.

The football knowledge of this Modakeke high chief did not go unnoticed as World Football governing body FIFA appointed him as member, Technical Committee and Technical Working Group of CAF and FIFA.

Rashidi Yekini

The goals father knows how to score. Rising from UNTL FC of Kaduna in the ’80s, Yekini was an ideal striker to any coach. His goal sense and ability to convert half-baked chances were the additions that stood him out as Nigeria’s best striker of all time.

With his blockbuster shots, he sent jitters down the spines of goalkeepers. His many goals ensured Nigeria ruled Africa again in 1994 and played a vital role in Super Eagles World Cup qualification in 1994.

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For the record, Yekini became the player to score Nigeria’s first World Cup goal in a 3-1 win over Bulgaria in the group opener.

He scored a whopping 253 goals from 164 appearances for 14 clubs he played for.

The former Victoria Setubal striker featured in USA 1984 and France 98 World Cup was capped 58 times by Nigeria with 37 goals to show for it; the highest to date.

Yekini died in 2012, in somewhat controversial circumstances.

Jo Bonfere

Bonfere led the Nigeria U-23 national team to the historic Atlanta 96 Olympics gold medal as the country became the first African side to win an Olympic football gold after they edged out Brazil and Argentina in the semifinal and finals respectively.

The former MVV manager then staged a comeback as Super Eagles manager in 1999, won silver in AFCON 2000 hosted by Nigeria and Ghana. He was sacked by NFA despite picking 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup ticket following players’ revolt.

His name would not be forgotten as the first foreign coach to win an international laurel for the senior national team at a global stage.

Samson Emeka Omeruah

He was regarded as the most successful NFA chairman and the architect of the grassroots policy. His love for grassroots sports paved way for Youth and Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON) – a body saddled with the responsibility of combing all nooks and crannies of Nigeria for raw talents.

Omeruah chaired NFA Secretariat between August 1985-December 1987 and his policies and vision took no time to yield positive fruits as Nigeria Golden Eaglets ruled World by winning FIFA U-17 Kodak Cup in 1985 in China.

Omeruah returned as NFA chairman in 1994 and pushed his workers beyond limits to ensure Nigeria qualified for her first FIFA World Cup in USA 1994.

He did not stop there, the former military Governor of Anambra State then put the right machinery in place as Dream Team won Olympic Gold Medal in Atlanta 96.

Nwankwo Kanu

He was a member of the all-conquering U-17 side that won the World Cup in Japan 93. An icon of Nigeria football who went on to win the prestigious UEFA Champions League with Ajax in the 1993/94 season alongside George Finidi.

Kanu was captain when Nigeria won the football goal at Atlanta 96.

This bundle of skills was later diagnosed of having heart disorder by an Inter Milan doctor after it was discovered that the gangling striker was born with congenital heart defect in 1996.

Papillo was operated on and he recovered, but in March 2014, a second corrective surgery was successfully conducted in the United States.

Moved by his survival, he opted to run Kanu Heart Foundation, an NGO which carries out free treatment on children born with a heart defect.

MKO Abiola

A businessman, publisher, and philanthropists became the Pillar of Sports in Africa for his love for sports development in the continent.

While Leventis FC and Shooting Stars treated football fans to good football in Ibadan, Abiola felt Ogun State deserved a club of her own. He then formed his pet club and named it Abiola Babes FC of Abeokuta.

The club got promoted to Nigeria’s first division in 1984 and later went on to win two FA Cups with two appearances in Africa Cup Winners Cup.

MKO championed the course of sports development in Africa by providing adequate funding to cash-trapped sports associations and individuals.

Nojeem Maiyegun

Although Dick Tiger and Hogan Kid Bassey were regarded as two of Nigeria’s best boxer, it was Maiyegun that actually won Nigeria’s first Olympic medal.

The light Middleweight boxer was the cynosure of all eyes at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where he won a bronze medal to commence what would be Nigeria’s successful journey in the world of boxing.

He then went on to prove his Olympic feat was not a flash in the pan by winning another Bronze medal at the 1968 Commonwealth Games in Kingston Jamaica.

Maiyegun then turned pro and relocated to Austria. Nothing much was heard about him after he turned pro.

Teslim Balogun

Arguably the best in his generation, Teslim Balogun played in seven challenge Cups and won five times. He then became part of the Red Devil’s that toured England in 1949.

He was among the first Nigerians to sign up professional contracts abroad after he was signed by Peterborough FC but he could only play for QPR and scored three goals in 13 matches.

For his immense contributions to the round leather game, a stadium was named after him by the Lagos State government.

Mercy Akide Udoh

A former player of Garden City FC, Jegede Babes, Ufuoma Babes and Pelican Stars, Mercy featured in three World Cups and became the first Africa female footballer to win a soccer scholarship to USA.

With Mercy at the forefront of Nigeria attack, Super Falcons was the most dreaded female national team in Africa as the team went on to dominate Africa, thus becoming the most recognized female footballer from Nigeria.

This FIFA Ambassador is in line for a role in the soon-to-be-announced Super Falcons coaching crew.

Segun Odegbami

He was so good that they named him mathematical having attended one of the Technical Institutions in Ibadan where he graduated as an engineer.

Odegbami, alongside Felix Owolabi and late Mudashiru Lawal, were the three musketeers that made IICC thick in the 80’s.

Their talents for club and country was rewarded as Green Eagles won 1980 Africa Cup of Nations on home soil. Odegbami won 46 caps for Green Eagles and scored 23 goals.

After retiring from football, Odegbami embraced sports marketing under his brand name Worldwide Sports. He presently runs the Segun Odegbami International College & Sports Academy

Odegbami once appeared on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and donated all his earnings to Strong Tower Orphanage.

Henry Nwosu

He was the youngest player to play for the victorious 1980 African Cup of Nations Green Eagles.

Loved and adored by late coach Otto Gloria, Nwosu is regarded as one of most skillful playmakers the national team ever paraded.

He is fondly remembered for his disqualified cheeky goal against Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in Maroc 88. Nwosu began his career at NNB and ACB. He then began his professional career with ASEC Mimosas and had a short stint in Cameroon with Racing FC Bafoussam.

He is currently a board member of Heartland FC of Owerri.

Larry Izamoje

An accomplished journalist, Izamoje pioneered Sports Radio in Nigeria and the entire Africa when he founded Sports Radio 88.9 Brila FM in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2002.

With so many awards to his name for his giant strides in sports journalism and beyond, Izamoje has given voice to sports in Nigeria and globally

Lekan Salami

He was a staunch fan of Hercules FC since 1937 when the club was founded and later managed Ibadan Lions FC. He was appointed as chief executive of Western Nigeria Development Corporation (WNDC) and later founded IICC, Shooting Stars, and the club was managed by Pepsi-Cola FC.

The late chief then recruited talents like Mudashiru Lawal, Jide Johnson and bankrolled the club to its first continental trophy in 1970.

Adamasingba Sports Complex Ibadan was named after this 3SC life patron after his death in 1988. He was one of the pioneers of football administration in the history of club football in Nigeria.

John Mastoroudes

Born to Greek parents, Mastoroudes is regarded as one of the best football administrators ever because of the way he single-handedly steered the ship at defunct Leventis United FC.

Often referred to as Grekogerian by reporters, Mastoroudes’ passion for football prompted him to invite workers at Carpet Royal to play football.

He then talked Leventis Stores management to merge Sanyo FC, Iddo Tigers, and Carpet Royal into one club. The rest is history as Leventis United FC dominated the local scene for decades.

Marian Usman

Weightlifting is one major sport that has brought laurels to Nigeria since independence. Marian Usman is one of few female weightlifters with good track records in the sports.

This four-time African champion in the 75kg category deserves her place among Sports personalities that brought honours to Nigerian in the last 60 years.

With Commonwealth Games gold medal in her cabinets, Marian featured in three Olympics Games where she gave a good account of herself by winning bronze in 2008.

Yemi Tella

A former lecturer at National Institute of Sports turned coach tutored the victorious U-17 side at the 2007 FIFA World Cup in South Korea.

Determined to etch his name in Nigeria history books, ailing Tella refused to step down as Eaglets coach despite being diagnosed with cancer of the lungs, he led Nigeria to pre-World Cup tournament in South Korea and vowed to finish up what he started.

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He did win the World Cup at the expense of Spain and landed at Lagos Teaching Hospital upon arrival form South Korea. Tella died on October 20, 2007.

Sebastine Broderick

Broderick shocked the world in 1985 when his hurriedly assembled rookies rode their way to win what was Nigeria first major trophy at the global stage.

This Benin high chief did play the game during his active days and his talents paved the way for him in the Nigeria football side that featured in the 1968 Olympics Games in Mexico City.

Sunday Dankaro

He was a great businessman and a sports administrator, who called the shots as dual boss of Nigeria Football Association and National Sports Commission between 1974 and1980.

He took his chances on footballers when no one would fight for footballers’ welfare as Nigeria won her first African Cup of Nations in 1980 on home soil.

Dankoro was so good and meticulous in his trade that NFF new Secretariats was named after him. He will be fondly remembered as the man whose sports administration galvanised his generation.

Otto Gloria

He was the man that helped shaped the structure of Nigeria football. The Brazilian left Vasco da Gama in 1979 to tinker the Green Eagles after Nigeria won the nod to host 1980 Africa Cup of Nations.

He then steered Green Eagles through 1980 Nations Cup as Nigeria defeated Algeria 3-0 in the finals and later qualified the country for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

Known for his zero tolerance for failure, Otto Gloria then resigned his appointment as Green Eagles coaches after Nigeria crashed out of the 1982 Africa Cup of Nations in Libya.

Otto died on September 4, 1986, but he will be remembered as the first coach to earn Nigeria her first African Cup of Nations.

Christian Chukwu

The chairman was the captain of victorious Green Eagles that won 1980 Africa Cup of Nations on home soil. A born leader, Chukwu remains one of the best center-backs the national team has ever produced.

Chukwu’s talent was well known. His coaching career began with a stint in Lebanon in 1990 before moving on to manage Harambee Stars of Kenya in 1998. He bagged Super Eagles job in 2003 and steered Nigeria to win bronze in 2004 AFCON in Tunisia.

Recently treated for an ailment in London, Chairman remains one of the icons of Nigerian football given his contributions to the growth of football in the country in the last 60 years.

Clemence Westerhof

The ‘Dutchgerian’ as he is fondly called surpassed Otto Gloria as the first coach to qualify Nigeria for her maiden World Cup in 1994 after decades of futile efforts.

With little or no track record, Westerhof came to Nigeria full of expectations and worked with largely a mix of local and foreign players as Nigeria won Silver in Algiers 90, Bronze in 1992 before winning the top prize in Tunisia in 1994.

Westerhof, who assembled what many still consider Nigeria’s best squad ever, unceremoniously walked away from the team after the painful second round defeat against Italy at USA 94.

Blessing Okagbare

Unarguably one of the greatest sprinters the African continent has ever produced, Okagbare has been a shining light in the last decade; winning all that counts in the track and field event.

Her journey to stardom began at the 2008 Olympics where she surprised all including herself to win a silver medal in the long jump event

She also has IAAF World Championships 200m bronze, Long Jump Silver, IAAF World Cup 100m bronze.

Okagbare proudly owns the Nigerian 100m record at 10.79 seconds and 200m record at 22.04 seconds.

Ismaila Mabo

The history of female footballin Nigeria is incomplete without the mention of Mabo.

Mabo was the head coach of the Nigeria women’s national team at the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, 2000 Summer Olympics and 2004 Summer Olympics. He led Nigeria to the quarter-finals of the World Cup, the team’s best ever result

Funke Oshonaike

Since bursting into the limelight as a teen almost two decades ago, Oshoinaike has been waxing strong and stronger.

With many successes on the home front and on the continent, she made her first appearance at the Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta.

Twenty-four years after, she is still on top of her game and has qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Oshonaike is not just the first female table tennis player to achieve the feat, she is also the first woman from Africa in any discipline to reach the milestone.

Odunayo Adekuroye

From being a hawker in the streets of Akure Ondo State, Adekuroye is living her dream as a fulfilled wrestler ranked alongside the very best in the world. With virtually no match on the continent, Adekuroye looks destined for greater things on the global stage.

The double Commonwealth Games champion is widely seen as one of Nigeria’s brightest medal prospect at Tokyo 2020

Wellignton Jighere

One of the remarkable moments in Nigeria’s sports in the past 60 years was when Jighere from nowhere emerged as the World Scrabble Champion, 2015. Apart from this noble feat, Jighere is a two-time African Scrabble Champion and12-time National Champion.

Chidi Imoh

The former University of Missouri sprinter posted a world-leading time in 1986, and he was held in high esteem by the likes of Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson.

Chidi Imoh ran the final leg as Nigeria picked silver in the 4x100m at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. He won five gold, two silver, and one bronze in his career.

Chidi still holds the records in the 200 m and 100 m outdoor of his American school.

Rauf Ladipo

He was regarded as the pioneer of Nigeria supporters club. While every Tom Dick and Harry were busy investing their energy in football administration, Ladipo felt every football team needed the 12th man on the stand to cheer them success.

Rauf was the sole financier of the club until telecom giants Globacom CEO, Mike Adenuga, stepped in to bankroll some its programmes and trips abroad.

From Senegal 92 Africa Cup of Nations to date, the Nigerian supporters club introduced music gyration into the group and Nigeria teams now rely on songs coming from the stands to win matches when the chips are down.

Little wonder African countries began to copy his blueprint. Recognised and honoured by FIFA, every emerging supporters’ clubs in Africa followed up his vision in their respective countries. Nearly every supporters’ club in the continent regard Ladipo as a pacesetter of African supporters’ club.

Princess Bola Jegede

Nigeria’s 10 win out of 12 African Women Championship did not come cheap. It took the effort of the likes of the Princess who nurtured the seed and watered it until it became a brand that everyone is struggling to identify with today.

The history of women football in Nigeria would not be complete without the selfless effort of Princess Bola Jegede.

She invested her resources and single-handedly launched female football in Lagos State in 1987 and named it Jegede Babes.

Princess Jegede was later appointed into NFF female football department when she designed a lasting blueprint for female football in Nigeria.

Her wealth of expertise and aura around the girls helped propelled Super Falcon to success in Africa.

Yusuf Alli

A three-time Olympian, Alli is best known for his gold medal at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

He also has one of the longest-standing records in Nigeria’s Track and Field history having soared to a leap of 8.27 meters at the 1989 African Championships in Athletics in Lagos where he won gold.

The record is yet to be matched 31 years after

Alli, a former technical director of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria is presently the General Manager for Lagos City Marathon.

Benedict Majekodunmi

The 80-year old who was then a sprinter was Nigeria’s first flag bearer at the Olympic Games.

He competed in the men’s 100 metres at the 1972 Summer Olympics.

He won a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 metres relay at the 1974 British Commonwealth Games.

Obuzoeme Barbara Nsenu

Though often with little or no mention, Obuzoeme actually blazed the trail of Nigerian sprinters’ dominance of Africa which over the years produced stars like Mary Onyali, Endurance Ojokolo, Blessing Okagbare among others.

At a time Ghanaian athletes were the leading light in sprint races in Africa, Obuzoeme, against all odds, caused a stir to win the 1979 African Athletics Championships Gold.

She went on to represent Nigeria at the 1980 Olympic Games in Russia.


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