On Nigeria 60th Independence, we celebrate some of the country’s sporting heroes.
As Nigeria celebrates its Independence Day, we are celebrating 10 iconic sportsmen and women who have brought pride to the flag.
1. Kanu Nwankwo
Nigeria’s greatest footballer without a doubt, Kanu Nwankwo shot to limelight after helping Nigeria to Gold Medal at the football event of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
His double in the famous semi-final victory over Brazil remains one of the most iconic moments in Nigerian sports history.
He was also part of the Golden Eaglets team that won the 1993 FIFA U-17 World Cup. He represented Nigeria at the 1998, 2002 and 2010 World Cup tournaments and also played in several AFCON competitions.
In club football the two-time African Player of the Year was even more successful, winning every trophy available from the Champions League to Premier League to FA Cup.
2. Mercy Akide
Akide was the face of women’s football in Nigeria, leading Nigeria to three Women’s FIFA World Cup.
She was one of the best players in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, leading Nigeria to shocking wins against Denmark and North Korea. The 1999 FIFA Women’s Cup remains the only edition the Super Falcons have reached the knockout stage.
She has three Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) titles and she is the first person to win the African Women Footballer of the Year award in 2001.
3. Samuel Peters
When you connect Nigeria and boxing, the first name that comes to mind is Samuel Peters. Peters wrote his name in Nigerian sports history when he held the WBC heavyweight title in 2008.
There were also famous fights with the Klitschko brothers, having faced Wladimir twice (in 2005 and 2010) and Vitali once
4. Chioma Ajunwa
The most memorable Nigerian feat at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games remains Nigeria’s U-23 team winning gold in the football event. Chioma Ajunwa equalled that triumph winning gold at the Women’s Long Jump event.
To date, she remains Nigeria’s only individual Olympic gold medalist. She is the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event.
5. Mary Onyali
Perhaps one of the greatest names in Nigerian athletics, Mary Onyali won the bronze medal in the 4 × 100 m relay at the 1992 Olympic Games and in the 200 m at the 1996 Olympic Games.
She also won the 1994 Commonwealth Games 100 metres title.
One of the greatest to compete at the All-Africa Games, she won a total of 7 individual medals in the short sprints. She won 100m in 1991, 1995 and 2003 and took a bronze medal in 1987.
She also won 200m Gold medals in 1987, 1995 and 2003. From 1987 to 2003 she led Nigeria’s women 4 × 100 m relay team to gold at the All-African Games.
Should we include her football career? She was part of the Super Falcons squad to the 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup although she didn’t make an appearance.
6. Nduka Odizor
Nduka Odizor is considered to be the greatest Nigerian tennis player. After representing Nigeria at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, he went ahead to win one career title in singles (Taipei, 1983) and seven doubles titles.
He reached his highest ATP singles ranking of World No. 52 in June 1984. No Nigerian has ever achieved this feat.
7. Segun Odegbami
Segun Odegbami is one of the greatest Nigerian players of all time, period. He played as a forward for the national team earning praise for his immense technical skills.
He was nicknamed ‘Mathematical Odegbami’ for his precision on set pieces. He was was also blessed with terrific skills and speed, getting past opponents with smooth moves. He was simply a joy to watch.
8. Jay Jay Okocha
One of the most famous Nigerian sports stars, Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha is known all over the world. He is undoubtedly one of the best dribblers the world has ever seen. He represented Nigeria at three FIFA World Cup tournaments and was part of the squads that won the 1994 AFCON and gold medal at the 1996 Olympics.
9. John Mikel Obi
After Nigerian football dynasties Kanu and Okocha, Mikel Obi became the country’s flag bearer in football.
One of the most successful Nigerian footballers, Mikel is only rivalled by Kanu when it comes to trophies won as a footballer.
He won AFCON with the Super Eagles in 2013 and led Nigeria’s U-23 to the country’s only medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Mikel has won everything in club football also.
10. Asisat Oshoala
The reigning queen of African women’s football, Asisat Oshoala continues to be the face of women’s sports in Nigeria.
Oshoala who plays for Barcelona Women’s side has represented Nigeria at two FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments, U-20 Women’s World Cup and three Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON).
She was named the best player at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup where she also finished as top scorer with seven goals.
Her seven goals led Nigeria to the final of the World Cup where they lost to Germany.
She has also played for top European sides like Liverpool Ladies and Arsenal Ladies.
She became the first woman to be named the BBC World Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2015.
She has won the African Women’s Player of the Year award five times, won AWCON three times with the Super Falcons of Nigeria and won several trophies in club football.