Babatunde Raji Fashola
As Lagos State is set to honour heroes of the oldest competition in Nigeria, the Federation Cup, Kunle Adewale profiles some of the players that have made their mark in the competition
TESLIM ‘Thunder’ BALOGUN
Thunder Balogun as late Teslim Balogun was popularly called played at international level as a prolific striker, before becoming Africa’s first qualified professional football coach. Balogun started his football career in Nigeria and played for clubs including the all conquering Railway team of the 1940’s, Apapa Bombers, Marine Athletics, UAC XI, Jos XI, Pan Bank Team, Dynamos Club and SCOA XI. During his time in Nigeria, he won the Challenge Cup (Federation Cup) a total of seven times.
Teslim was the first Nigerian to sign a professional football contract in 1955 when he signed for Peterborough United of England. He also spent time with Skegness Town, Queens Park Rangers and Holbeach United. Balogun was also a member of the Nigerian national side for 17 years.
He coached the Nigerian National team to the 1968 summer Olympics.
Christian Chukwu is one of the best defenders Nigeria has ever produced. He was famous for captaining the Nigerian national team to lift the African Nations Cup trophy for the first time defeating Algeria 3-0 in the final. He was a regular in the Enugu Rangers team that dominated the Challenge Cup in the 1970’s. A natural leader of men, he was part of the victorious 1974 Challenge Cup side and went on to captain the team to lift the trophy in 1975, 1976 and 1981 winning side.
Chukwu then went on to coach the team without much success before taking his coaching career to Lebanon in the mid 1990s, and was later appointed coach of the Kenya national team in 1998. He coached Nigeria to reach the semi-finals of the 2004 African Cup of Nations.
Shaibu Amodu handled the Nigerian National team on four different occasions and was renowned as the first indigenous coach to qualify the country to two World Cups, but ironically he never led the Super Eagles to the Mundial.
Amodu won the African Cup Winners Cup with BCC Lions of Nigeria in 1990 and finished as runners up in the same competition in 1991. He also led BCC Lions to the Challenge Cup victory in1989 defeating Iwuanyawu Nationale by a lone goal and took El-Kanemi Warriors to the title in 1992 and 1993.These exploits effectively makes him a Challenge Cup legend and one of the most successful coaches in the competition’s history.
Segun Odegbami won 46 caps and scored 23 goals for the National team, and was part of the Green Eagles side that won for Nigeria its first Africa Cup of Nations in 1980.
Nicknamed ‘Mathematical’, Odegbami was famous for his touchline dribbles, speed and precession of his crosses from the right wing. He played for IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan throughout his entire career, and won the Challenge Cup on a couple of occasions.
After his retirement he has remained a football administrator, sports analyst and columnist.
Emmanuel Okala is arguable one of the best goalkeepers to ever play for Nigeria. He was the first Nigerian to be voted African footballer of the year.
Emmanuel joined Enugu Rangers in 1971 and immediately stood out. He has over 40 caps for the national team winning a bronze and a gold in the 1978 and 1980 editions of the Nations Cup. He is by any standard a Challenge Cup legend, manning the post of one of the most dominant teams of the Challenge Cup in the ‘70s – Rangers International – with three successive wins between 1974 and 1976.
Emmanuel Okala in 1979 was voted the best goalkeeper on the African continent by the African Sport Writers Union in what is one of the most historic moments on his career.
Moses Kpakor was a very technical footballer during his playing days. The prize midfielder plied his trade with BBC lions of Gboko and Abiola Babes. His work rate and leadership quality inspired his team to four Challenge Cup titles in 1989, 1993, 1994 and 1997.