‘Thunder’ Balogun is Nigeria’s Greatest Footballer, Says Onigbinde

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Adegboye Onigbinde

Femi Solaja

Two-time Chief Coach of the Super Eagles, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, hasdescribed the late Teslim ‘Thunder’ Balogun, as the best footballer ever produced by Nigeria.

Today is the 48th year anniversary of the death of Balogun who died in his sleep in 1972.

According to Onigbinde who is a former FIFA and CAF Instructor, “The greatest footballer Nigeria has ever produced remains Teslim ‘Thunder’ Balogun. There is no doubt about it.

“As a footballer, he did many things players before his time, those of his time and after him have not been able to do with the ball.

“The greatest goal scored by any player I have seen played football was scored by ‘Thunder’ Balogun at the Olubadan Stadium in 1968 in the match between the Nigerian national soccer team, the UK Tourists and England,” observed the gaffer who took the Super Eagles to the World Cup in Korea/Japan in 2002.

Chief Onigbinde revealed that during the friendly with England, “ English players were always on him each time he received the ball. To beat the pressure off, ‘Thunder’ stood outside the 18-yard box with his back turned at the England goalkeeper. But as soon as ball was floated to him, English players were expecting him to bring it down. But against their imagination, Balogun staggered a bit, and in turning, he fired a shot at the goalpost, which saw the goalkeeper diving the wrong,” Onigbinde recalled.

The former Trinidad and Tobago coach stressed that, “the story of ‘Thunder’ Balogun will never die. For those of us who watched him played, we saw him as Nigeria’s greatest footballer.”

Onigbinde observed further: “He died in his sleep on July 30, 1972 at the relatively young age of 45 years, but the heroics of Thunder Balogun live forever.

At birth, the enigmatic footballer was named Tesilim Akanni Balogun. His father was a cricketer. ‘Thunder’ Balogun attained legendary status after he became the first Nigerian to play professional football in England.

Teslim played for Apapa Bombers, Marine, Railway, Plateau, Pan Bank and Dynamo all between 1944 and 1961.

He won the FA Cup five times in seven final appearances and was the first player to score a hat-trick in the FA Cup final when he put three goals past Warri XI as Pan Bank won the 1952 final 6-1.

In 1949, he was part of Nigeria’s first national team, known as the UK Tourists team that toured the United Kingdom.

After that encounter, he signed for Peterborough FC, becoming the first Nigerian to play professional football in England.

He also had professional stints with Holbeach and Queens Park Rangers where he played 13 times and scored three goals in 1956.

His playing career lasted from 1945 to 1962 and he was in the coaching crew for Nigeria to the 1968 Olympic Games where the country drew 3-3 against Brazil.

For his heroics, the Lagos State owned stadium facility in Surulere was named after him as the Teslim Balogun Stadium.