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9 Absolute Heroes From The Golden Age Of Nigerian Football

Mikey Traynor
By Mikey Traynor
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From 1994 to 2002, some of the most attractive and expansive football was being played by Nigeia's Super Eagles. After Cameroon had blazed the trail for African nations at the 1990 World Cup, the rest of the '90s and early '00s was all about Nigerian football, with strong showings at both the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, as well as winning the gold medal in the 1996 Olympic Games.

Not only were the Nigerian players of this time giving their supporters back home something to cheer about, but they were capturing the hearts and minds of football fans on this side of the World with their speed, work-rate, and in some cases, mind-blowing skill.

As a tribute, we have compiled a list of our very favourite Nigerian players from this brilliant time, and present to you 9 absolute heroes from the golden age of Nigerian football.

Finidi George

A member of Louis Van Gaal's iconic Ajax side that won the Champions League in the 94/95 season, Finidi George was an incredibly skillful attacker. He enhanced his reputation with a successful spell with Real Betis in Spain, before a less than impressive stint at Ipswich Town. It was hard not to like Finidi George, especially after this celebration:

Jay Jay Okocha

A man who needs no introduction. Augustine "Jay Jay" Okocha dazzled Premier League fans when he became Sam Allardyce's most successful big-name signing for Bolton Wanderers, after a brilliant spell with PSG. Innovative, flamboyant, entertaining, Jay Jay was a one man show who was universally loved.

Daniel Amokachi

Another player who landed in England during their career was striker Daniel Amokachi. Nicknamed "The Bull" due to his knack of stampeding through defenses, the lighting quick unit of a man scored 10 goals in 47 appearances for Everton. Best known for his absolute thunderbastard of a goal in the 1994 World Cup while wearing one of the funkiest kits ever:

Sunday Oliseh


Midfield maestro Sunday Oliseh rose to prominance with Ajax, but his performances at the 1998 World Cup in France motivated Juventus to snap him up soon after. It didn't go well in Turin, as Sunday only made 8 appearances, but with the outrageous competition for a midfield place at the time I think we'll let him off. He scored an iconic goal against Spain in 1998, and recently gave a TED Talk on the importance of education, fair play Mr.Oliseh!



Celestine Babayaro

Another man who Premier League fans will instantly know, Celestine Babayaro enjoyed eight successful years at Chelsea before playing three seasons with Newcastle United. A pacy full-back who loved to whip in a cross, Babayaro was a fan favourite, and had an absolutely brilliant flip celebration that we didn't get to see enough because he hardly ever scored. He unfortunately declared bankruptcy in 2011.

Taribo West

Football icon. Taribo West was universally loved for his mental haricuts which made him instantly recognisable on the pitch. He played for both Inter and AC Milan, as well as Derby County (oh, and Plymouth Argile), in a long career of which the highlight was his glorious adventure at France 98 World Cup, which someone thankfully decided to make a video for:


Nwankwo Kanu

An incredibly gifted footballer, Nwankwo Kanu will be best remembered for his days at Arsenal, where he won two Premier League titles and two FA Cups. He also won the Champions League as part of Van Gaal's Ajax side, but his finest hour was surely this hat-trick against Chelsea:

Tijani Babangida

Flying winger Tijani Babangida was another to benefit from the influx of Nigerian players in Holland in the early '90s, first with Roda JC where he made his name, and then with Ajax, where he scored an impressive 20 goals in 77 games from the wing. His career ended in China with Changchun Yatai F.C. He is best remembered for having the pace of an Olympic sprinter.

Julius Aghahowa

Another lightning quick forward who loved a back-flip celebration, Julius Aghahowa rose to fame in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk, before a goalless spell at Wigan Athletic. His strike-rate for Nigeria was around a goal every other game, but he was unfortunate to miss out on more than 32 caps due to the plethora of top level Nigerian strikers also playing in Europe at the time.

See also: This Ireland v Nigeria Pre-World Cup 2002 Match Programme Is Nostalgic Gold


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