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.

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.

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 Stores, 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.

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 7 times, 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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8 Thoughts to “What do you really know about Nigerian Football players in history? ”

  1. Mayowa Akinsola

    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.

    The goal was scored during 2nd All African Games hosted by Nigeria in January 1973. The match ended 4 -2 in favour of Nigeria, Recall that the National Stadium was opened in December 1972.

  2. Mayowa Akinsola

    I have a book titled; ‘Super Eagles! Through the ages’ written by another veteran journalist, Kunle Solaja. There are a few discrepancies observed when juxtaposed with the work of Dayo Oke.

    According to Fact Number 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.

    In Solaja’s book, Nigeria’s first international match was against Sierra Leone in Freetown on 8th October 1949 which ended in a 2 nil victory for Nigeria. The first goal was scored through an own goal by the captain of Sierra Leone named Ashman while the second goal was scored by Teslimi ‘Thunder’ Balogun. The Nigerian team were on their way back from the United Kingdom where they had played a series of friendlies with English clubsides when they visited Sierra Leone.

    In Fact Number 4, you stated that 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.

    Going by Solaja’s book, I arrived at three (3) goals. The discrepancy is easy to decode in this case., you did not take into consideration the match played against Sierra Leone in 1949 in which Balogun scored a goal.

    Fact Number 8 has it that the first Nigeria to score an on (sic)-goal (against Nigeria), was Isaac Nnado in 1959.

    According to Kunle Solaja, the first own goal against Nigeria by a Nigerian was scored by John Onyeador in 1959 for Egypt. It is pertinent to state that you did not disclose the opponent Nigeria faced when attributing that own goal to Issac Nando but a look at the line – up of the Nigerian team revealed that both the duo of Nando and Onyeador featured together in the match for Nigeria on 13th December 1959 as gathered from Solaja’s book.

    The correct team Richard Owubokiri scored his solitary goal against has already being mentioned.

  3. Ujehlooo

    The Onetime Hit Wonders donning the National Jersey Once have made the loudest noise in the spheres and management of Nigerian Football. Looking down the list of this onetime hit wonders – one has to shake head small and say na wah ooooooo….ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaa..

    1. Once is good enough when serving your country at senior national team level.

  4. Debowale Yusuff

    This is a good step , at least for history sake. God bless U Segun Odegnami.

    1. Thanks to Dayo Oke, who put together the book from which most of the facts came from. I am sure there would be bits and pieces that would require some ‘editing’. Correct records are hard to find in Nigeria.

  5. Aro Leonard

    Great piec, I love the history. Richard Owobokiri scored the first goal against South Africa in 1993 – the 4-0 win during the 1994 World Cup qualifiers. Yekini scored the other goals

    1. You are right. I remember. I know Dayo Oke is reading this. he would have the answer why that goal was omitted.

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