This is not a contest. It is a celebration of exceptional talents.
I had to call up 3 former Presidents of the Nigeria Football Federation, the current President, three of the most respected veteran journalists, the coach whose recollections and influence on Nigerian football (largely unsung) have been unprecedented in my estimation, the encyclopedia of Nigerian football, plus an ordinary Nigerian in Abuja whose contribution I picked from tons that came flooding into my mail box earlier today. Only this high level assembly can spice up today’s heavyweight unofficial choice of the greatest left-winger in Nigerian football history since 1960. The assembly is of those that saw most of all the players.
The wings are the areas that players endowed naturally with speed, skills, power and athleticism flourish well. That’s why there is a crowd of truly exceptional players of different strengths and abilities in Nigerian football that deserves to be considered amongst the best in that position. The list I complied with the help of many persons familiar with the history of Nigerian football without consulting any literature (to dilute any ‘seriousness’ that may be attached to the fun exercise going on) presented an exciting prospect of great discourse for those that I called up to provide their personal views. Understandably, choices would reflect sentiments of the era to which the persons belong. Those sentiments would be quite obvious. The player’s fame, longevity, individual achievements, popularity, technical ability and familiarity to a respondent shall surely come into consideration too. In the end, this is not a contest, and nothing will be collated and no results will be declared. It is all an acknowledgement and a celebration of exceptional talent.
The list below is truly a heavyweight of great and even legendary players drawn in a rough chronological order reflecting their eras. They all played the outside left position for either (or even both) the Green or the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
Titus Okere, Dejo Fayemi, Patrick Naquapor, Kaiser Blankson, Mohammed Lawal, Josiah Dombraye, Kunle Awesu, Adokie Amiesimaka, Felix Owolabi, Damian Ogunsuyi, Humphrey Edobor, Friday Elahor, James Etokebe, Emmanuel Amuneke and Victor Ikpeba.
‘The Prince of Monaco’, Victor Ikpeba, presents a slight challenge. Ikpeba, a right footed player, like Josiah Dombraye and Adokie Amiesimaka, was converted to play as a central striker in Monaco from his original position as a left winger in Nigeria’s junior and senior national teams. He became African Footballer of the Year playing a striker’s role, and not as a winger for Nigeria most of the time. So, there is some contention about the inclusion of his name in this group of left-sided wingers.
Victor is not the only African Footballer of the Year in this list. Emmanuel Amuneke also won the award, making two of them with the highest individual awards in African football in the group.
Kunle Awesu was also declared best left winger in Africa at the African Cup of Nations in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, in 1976.
Felix Owolabi was a one-man army. Adokie was a player with the silky touch. Josiah Dombraye was a god in the deep south of Nigeria. Humphrey Edobor and, later, Friday Elahor were electrifying particularly in Bendel State that dominated Nigerian football in that era. The list goes on – all megastars in their rights and in their time.
Each one of the players on the list has a rich chest of individual achievements to show for their place in Nigerian football history.
So, my role in this exercise, once again, is only as a moderator, to yield the ground to the celebrated personalities making their difficult choice of best left-winger in Nigerian football in 60 years since Independence. Here are their choices.
Amaju Pinnick – Administrator, President NFF
Humphrey Edobor, Elastic – As a witness to his phenomenal ability, his crosses were spot on, his passes sublime, his dribbles were effortless and easy. He was football made-easy. Simply the best.
Dominic Oneya – Administrator, former Governor,
Felix Owolabi, Owoblow – He was both a good defender and an attacker. Had excellent understanding of the game. Although he did not play outside the country, had the ability to have played in any team in the world.
Aminu Maigari – Administrator, Former President, NFF
Adokie Amiesimaka, Chief Justice – Brazil were my best team in the 1982 World Cup (they did not win it); just as the Green Eagles of 1980 are my best Nigerian team ever; just as Adokie Amiesimaka is my best left-winger in Nigeria’s football history. He was a skills-workshop, always in synergy with the team, never selfish with the ball, and played his football with deep passion.
Kojo Williams – Administrator, former Chairman, NFA
Adokie Amiesimaka, Chief Justice – Without the advantage of present day technology and training, on his individual talent and natural ability, CJ had everything; he was very quick, technically sound, a great vision, excellent dribbling skills, very intelligent and extremely fast.
Fabio Lanipekun – Veteran Journalist
Adokie Amiesimaka, Chief Justice – Nigeria was blessed with many absolutely brilliant left-wingers, but he was the best of them all. He was exceptionally great. Good with both feet, an excellent dribbler, and very intelligent. Like Owoblow (Felix Owolabi), naturally gifted.
Alabi Aissien – Professor, Coach
Humphrey Edobor, Elastic – Most enterprising of wingers, is Humphrey. One factor stood out – no one taught him but his crosses were always inch perfect, difficult for goalkeepers to intercept, but easy for his attackers to connect. The ball went to wherever he sent it. He could meander through tight defenses with the ball effortlessly.
Chuka Momah – Administrator, Micro-biologist
Adokie Amiesimaka, Chief Justice – a member of my best pack of Eagles ever. Pure ability with the ball, unadulterated football, inspired a whole country with his skill and performances, combined dribbling skills with brain power, and was not called CJ for nothing. Fantastic player. Chief Justice was it!
Dele Adetiba – Journalist /Advertising Guru
Dejo Fayemi – I am hung up on players of the old eras, except Adokie who was quite enterprising and stands out in my head from the others. Fayemi was a natural left footer; without being a great dribbler was still able to regularly weave his way through defenses; very skillful for that time. Scored a lot of goals as a winger.
Godwin Dudu-Orumen – Administrator, Journalist, Marketer
Adekunle Awesu – First real modern day left winger. Like Damian Ogunsuyi, very quick, very skillful, a great dribbler, and master of the dead ball. Very deadly from free kicks and crosses.
Jacob Oyekale – Football fan in Abuja
Felix Owolabi, Owoblow – strong, skillful and intelligent. He could play from midfield, full back or wing back. Played in the attack as well. Had speed and was difficult to shake off the ball. Had very accurate passes, power-packed shots and scored his own fair share of goals. Good with the set piece.