Remembering Nigerian Football Heroes
Today on our Vasiti Throwback Thursday, we look back in time to remember and celebrate five Nigerian Soccer Heroes.
Some of these football stars are still very much active today, while others have hung the boots. And others have as well forever alive in our hearts.
So, without wasting time, let’s dive in as we recognize these all stars.
Five Nigerian Football Heroes
Only few players of Nigerian descent had the influence that Keshi had on Nigerian and African football.
As a player with NNB he won the WAFU Cup twice, before moving to Cote d’Ivoire where he won the League and Cup with Stade d’Abidjan and then Africa Sports.
From there he moved to Belgian giants Anderlecht, winning one League title and two Cup titles.
Keshi became the longest serving Nigeria captain, leading the team to the African Nations Cup title in 1994 and qualifying for the World Cup that year.
He retired with 60 caps. He later returned as coach, winning Nations Cup bronze and qualifying for the 2002 World Cup as assistant to Shuaibu Amodu.
Keshi Died on the 7th of June 2016 in the city of Benin, Edo state.
Kanu is one of many naturally gifted football players from Nigeria and Africa.
His football brain was on a different wavelength to his contemporaries and he proved his value by winning major titles everywhere he went.
He finished as one of the most decorated African players in history.
Counting his trophy cabinet brings The UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, Premier League, FA Cup, Dutch League title and Nigerian League title at club level.
In addition to Olympic gold, the FIFA Under-17 World Cup title and Afro-Asia Cup.
On an individual level, he is named African Player of the Year twice, and BBC African Player of the Year twice.
As a youth international, he helped Nigeria win the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 1993. And was also signed by Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam.
From There he moved to Inter Milan, then to Arsenal, before joining West Brom and ending his career at Portsmouth.
With whom he won his final trophy, scoring the winning goal in their 2008 FA Cup triumph. He captained Nigeria to the Olympic gold medal, scoring the winning goal in a dramatic semi final against Brazil.
He finished as Nigeria’s joint highest capped player with 86 international appearances.
Kanu was also voted the 13th greatest Arsenal player of all time.
Teslim “Thunder” Balogun
Teslim is one Footballer that has many stories told about him since the late 1940s.
It is said that his shot was so thunderous it ripped open the stomach of a goalkeeper who stood in its way.
Other rumours claim the goalkeeper was his brother and Balogun was so distraught he gave up football.
In actual fact, Balogun won Nigeria’s Challenge Cup five times in seven finals. He was also the first player to score a hat-trick in the competition. Balogun was also a member of Nigeria’s UK Tourists in 1949.
After the UK tour, Balogun returned to England where he signed for Peterborough, becoming the first Nigerian to sign a professional football contract abroad.
But he did not play for them and later signed for QPR, scoring three goals in 13 appearances.
On retirement, he earned his badges and became the first African to qualify as a professional coach. He led Nigeria’s team to the 1968 Olympic Games.
The Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos is named after him.
A second generation early trailblazer of women’s football in Nigeria.
Akide’s skills and goal scoring for the Super Falcons made her the first truly globally recognized African women’s football star.
Two-time top scorer at the African Women Championship and three-time champion.
She became the first ever African woman to earn a soccer scholarship to the USA, where she set a single season record of 49 goals with Milligan College in Tennessee.
She then became the first African to play professional football in the USA with San Diego Spirit.
Akide also set a scoring record at the African Women Championships. She was thrice named by FIFA into its All Star Selection.
Akide represented Nigeria at three World Cups, two Olympic Games and three African Women’s Nations Cups.
She was named the first ever African Woman Footballer of the Year in 2000, a title she held until 2002.
She has also been inducted into both the Milligan College Hall of Fame, and the W-League Hall of Fame in the USA.
Mercy is Currently a FIFA Ambassador and member of the FIFA Legends team.
Okocha remains One of the most recognized faces of Nigerian sports in recent years.
He played briefly for Enugu Rangers before heading out to Germany, where he turned out for Eintracht Frankfurt. There, he scored one of the greatest goals in Bundesliga history against Oliver Kahn.
He moved to Turkey with Fenerbahce, on to PSG for a then African record transfer fee.
After which he eventually moved to England with Bolton Wanderers.
Okocha won the African Nations Cup in 1994, then claimed silver in 2000 and bronze in 2002, 2004 and 2006.
He was part of the Super Eagles squad that qualified for a first ever World Cup, going on to represent Nigeria at the event in 1994, 1998 and 2002.
His greatest moment was helping Nigeria win Olympic gold in 1996.
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