The Nigerian national team is blessed with raw talents and players that have graced the national team right from the past to the present age footballers that have contributed to the game and earned a legendary status. Called Super Eagles of Nigeria, the Nigerian national team have in the past paraded such genius as Segun Odegbami, Rashidi Yekini, Jay Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, and more. In this short compilation, Global Excellence magazine lists great Nigerian footballers of all time that have donned the Nigerian jersey, their accomplishment and what they are into now.
One of Nigeria’s ‘Atlanta ‘96’ heroes, Emmanuel Babayaro was first choice keeper but lost his place to Dosu Joseph in Atlanta. The 1993 U-17 World Cup winner’s international career ended at that level. He turned to the entertainment industry on retirement. He released his debut album ‘Best of Both Worlds’ courtesy Rectitude Records in 2010.
He was later named General Manager of National League outfit Kaduna United. He owns Pioneers Academy.
Former Marseille midfielder, Wilson Oruma has been reportedly ill in recent times and has been largely out of the scene.
Also an ‘Atlanta ‘96’ hero, his teammates have said he had not been in contact with most of them since his reported illness.
Popularly known as ‘Jay-Jay’, Augustine Azuka Okocha played as an attacking midfielder during his career which spanned eighteen years from 1990. Known for his technique, confidence and dribbling skills, especially his use of feints, Okocha played 75 international games and scored 14 goals before retiring in 2008. He is now a big time businessman, owning several companies in Nigeria.
Nwankwo Kanu was a forward player who captained the Nigerian national team for 17 years, from 1994–2010. During his career from 1992–2012, he played for Iwuanyanwu Nationale, Ajax, Inter Milan, Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion, and Portsmouth.
In a career spanning two decades, Nwankwo remains one of Africa’s most successful footballers winning over 20 accolades (individual, country and club) including winning the Olympic gold medal in 1996 with Nigeria, and made the third most substitute appearances in the UK’s Premier League history, appearing from the bench 118 times. Kanu is presently into entrepreneurship with several investments in real estate, hospitality, oil and gas.
Abiodun Obafemi is also a member of the ‘Atlanta ’96’ squad, though he featured in just one match. Obafemi, who began his career at Stationery Stores, played mostly in Germany featuring for Koln, Dusseldorf, Reutlinge and Augsburg, where he retired in 2001.
He went into grassroots football development becoming the Technical Director/Head Coach of Youth Sports Management, a Lagos-based academy reputed to have produced players for the U-17 team and the local league.
Taribo West is a former defence player famously known for his unique and colourful hairstyles. He started his professional career playing for Obanta United in 1989, and after a successful trial in 1993 he joined Auxerre and helped them reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, until 1997 when he moved to join Internazionale.
Taribo West had an unstable career with some controversy that saw him move to various teams in a short period of time. He finally retired in 2008 and is now a pastor at the church he founded, ‘Shelter in The Storm Miracle Ministries of All Nations’.
Utaka started his football career professionally with Arab Contractors of Egypt. The soccer star grew up in career to make Nwankwo Kanu his role model. Utaka has a brother, Peter, who also played football and as versatile.
In 2011, John received fair proposition from Montpellier HSC from the French Ligue 1. He intended leaving Portsmouth and the offer from the French club was the best bid in the given situation. Utaka joined Montpellier on a two-and-a-half year deal in January 2011 before Montpellier matches. Since 2002, John, had been periodically called up to the Nigeria national football team matches.
John once confessed he had interest in entertainment, movie, and music. Sources said he is actively involved in the showbiz though by proxy.
Midfielder Garba Lawal would remain one of the most versatile and hardworking players ever to be produced by Nigeria. He played at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups and the 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006.
He is now active in sports administration as he was appointed General Manager of Kaduna United two years ago and as a member of the NFF Technical Committee.
Finidi George, a former Nigeria international, has returned to the Dutch league after 17 years away as part of his coaching course.
The soccer star retired from playing in 2004 after a trophy-laden 15-year career, which included winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and three league titles and the 1995 Champions League with Dutch side Ajax.
Finidi spent three years on the Mallorcan beaches in the sun after his retirement from football in 2004. He said in an interview that the holiday was meant to get rid of the tension and the stressful life, promising to return to sport ‘one day’. After almost a decade away from football, George has returned to embark on a new chapter. He is also still active in sports administration outside Nigeria. He was appointed the Youth Team coach of Spanish La Liga side, Mallorca.
Peter Rufai is one of Nigeria’s finest goalkeepers in history. He manned the goal for the Super Eagles at the 1994 and 1998 world cups in US and France respectively. Rufai retired from international football shortly after France ‘98. He played for the defunct Stationery Stores, Femo Scorpions ( Nigeria), AS Dragons FC de l’Ouémé ( Benin Republic), Lokeren, Beveren ( Belgium), Farense ( Portugal), Deportivo La Coruna and Hercules both in Spain in a long and distinguished career.
He is also still within the sports arena as he presently lives in Spain where he runs a goalkeeper’s school.
-Compiled by Folorunsho Hamsat