Top 13 Sport Heroes in Nigeria and their Contributions

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When the colonial masters first came, sports – like the Hausa’s Dambe boxing – were already practised in Nigeria albeit without formal rules and regulations. Colonisation was one of the factors that improved sports in Nigeria. The Police Force, Army Force and Soldiers carried out “sport” training to develop themselves.

Later, in 1952, Nigeria had her first appearance in the Helsinki Olympic Games 1952, and recorded her first victory in 1954, when Emmanuel Ifeanjuna won a gold medal in the high jump at the Commonwealth games in Cardiff. This marked the unfolding of something new for Nigeria in the world of sports. Today, Nigeria is home to sports champions and record-breakers who have propagated and contributed to the development of Sports in the country.

In this blog post, we will take a good look at some of the top 13 Nigerian sports heroes and their contributions.

1. SEGUN ODEGBAMI (football).

Segun Odegbami
Segun Odegbami on sprint

Born in 1957, Segun Odegbami was a prominent footballer who played for the Shooting Stars FC and the Super Eagles of Nigeria. He graduated from the Polytechnic of Ibadan where he studied Engineering. Segun Odegbami led the Super Eagles to lift Gold in the 1980 edition of the African Cup of Nations, where he finished as the top goalscorer. Segun stunned audiences with his dazzling sprints along the wing. He was nicknamed “Mathematical.”

2. STEPHEN KESHI (football).

Coach Stephen Keshi lifted after winning AFCON
Coach Stephen Keshi lifted after winning AFCON

Keshi was a former Super Eagles coach and player. He won the AFCON title in Tunisia ’94 as a player and in 2013, he led the likes of Joseph Yobo, Vincent Enyeama, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses to AFCON victory as a coach. He was nicknamed “Big Boss” because of his leadership drive.

Stephen Keshi has a total of 60 national caps. He died in Benin City in 2016.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF NIGERIA IN 3-MINS.

3. CHIOMA AJUNWA (athlete).

Chioma Ajunwa.
Chioma Ajunwa.

Chioma Ajunwa performed as a track and field athlete at the African Games and African Championships between 1989 and 1991. She is the first African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event. She  was also a part of The Super Falcons, the female national team of Nigeria, during the Women’s World Cup in 1991.

4. JAY-JAY OKOCHA (Football).

JayJay Okocha.
JayJay Okocha!!

Known for his flamboyant skills and dexterity on pitch, Austin Okocha is a professional footballer. He came into limelight in Eintracht Frankfurt, a German club after scoring a dramatic goal against Oliver Khan, the then world best goalkeeper. Later, he played for popular European clubs including the likes of Fenerbahce, PSG, and then Bolton Wanderers.

Jay-jay was part of the Super Eagles’ team that won the Nations Cup in 1994 and qualified Nigeria for the World Cup in the USA for the very first time.

5. ARUNA QUADRI (Table Tennis)

Aruna Quadri in play.
Aruna Quadri in the play.

Aruna Quadri is a professional Nigerian table tennis player. In 2022, Aruna became the first-ever African, Nigerian, and black Table Tennis player to be rated in the top 10 in the world as rated by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

6. BLESSING OKAGBARE (200 m Sprints).

Blessing Okagbare-Otegheri is a former track and field athlete who specialized in triple jump, long jump and sprints. She holds the Women’s 100-meter Games record for the fastest time at 10.85 seconds in the 2014 edition of Commonwealth. She has also won medals at the All-Africa Games, IAAF Continental Cup and World Relays.

7. DICK TIGER (boxer).

Old picture of Dick Tiger flexing his forearm.
Old picture of Dick Tiger flexing his biceps.

Richard Ihetu, popularly known as Dick Tiger, was a Nigerian-born professional boxer born in 1929. Tiger won the WBA middleweight title when he beat Gene Fullmer on October 23, 1962 and the light heavyweight title in 1966 when he dethroned José Torres of Puerto Rico.

Dick Tiger was Igbo and served as a Lieutenant in the Biafran army during the Nigerian Civil War. He died on December 14, 1971.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF NIGERIA IN 3-MINS.

8. TOBI AMUSAN (HURDLER).

Tobi Amusan.
Tobi Amusan.

Oluwatobiloba Amusan OON is a Nigerian athlete who specialized in 100 metres hurdles and also competes as a sprinter. She hails from Ijebu-Ode, Ogun state and has a B.Sc. in Kinesiology from the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP).

Tobi Amusan is the current World, Commonwealth and African champion in the 100 m hurdles. At the 2022 world championship in Oregon, she set a Guinness world record of 12.12s. In 2018 and 2022, she won back-to-back Commonwealth and African titles in the 100 m hurdles category.

9. HOGAN BASSEY (boxer).

Hogan Bassey.
Hogan Bassey, the legendary boxer.

In his time, Hogan “Kid” Bassey was one of the most popular African boxers. After winning 14 contests at home in Nigeria, he left for Liverpool in England where he made for himself a name. He won the Empire featherweight championship and the world crown in 1957, becoming the first Nigerian boxer in history to be called world champion.

Once he retired, Bassey went back to Nigeria, where he served as a boxing coach.

9. RASHIDI YEKINI (football).

Rashidi Yekini after scoring Nigeria's first world cup goal.
Rashidi Yekini after scoring Nigeria’s first World Cup goal.

Rashidi Yekini, born 1963, was a Nigerian professional footballer who played as a forward. He netted Nigeria’s first World Cup goal in 1994.

Rashidi Yekini is the all-time top goalscorer for Nigeria. And to date, No Nigerian footballer has even come close to matching his impressive haul of 37 strikes from just 58 appearances.

10. KEHINDE PAUL (Powerlifting).

Kehinde Paul at work.
Kehinde Paul is at work.

Nicknamed Boss Nacker, Kehinde Paul was a Nigerian para powerlifter. He holds the Guinness world record for lifting 221 kg in the 2018 World Para-Power lifting Championships, Fazza, Dubai which won him gold. Kehinde Paul is a Gold medalist in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

11. SAMSON SIASIA (football).

Samson Siasia marking Diego Maradona.
Samson Siasia marking Diego Maradona.

Samson Siasia is a former Nigerian international player and coach. He scored 16 goals in 51 caps for the national team, and was part of the team that won the African Cup in 1994. In the same year, he was a French Ligue 1 winner with Nantes.

Samson Siasia has coached Nigeria’s Flying Eagles (U-20), Olympic Eagles (U-23) and the Super Eagles team.

12. CHIKA CHUKWUMERIJE (taekwondo).

Chika Chukwumerije.
Chika Chukwumerije.

Growing up in a family of Black Belts, Chika Chukwumerije is a male taekwondo practitioner from Nigeria. He is an Olympic medallist who had qualified and appeared at three Olympic Games, finishing with a bronze at the Olympics in Beijing 2008. Chika also won a gold medal at the 2007 All-Africa Games in the +80 kg category, amongst other awards.

He has an M.Sc. degree in Operations and Supply Chain Management from the University of Liverpool

13. VINCENT ENYEAMA (goalkeeper).

Vincent Enyeama checking whether Messi is real.
Vincent Enyeama checking whether Messi is human.

Vincent Enyeama was a professional goalkeeper at Losc Lille and for the Nigerian national team. Despite his below-average height for a goalkeeper, he is popularly regarded as one of the greatest African goalkeepers of all time. He won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (hosted in South Africa) alongside the likes of Efe Ambrose, Joseph Yobo, Emmanuel Emenike, John Mikel Obi, Victor Moses and other notable mentions.

With 101 caps, Vincent Enyeama is 2nd most capped player, following Ahmed Musa.

CONCLUSION.

The list of “Top Sports Heroes and Heroines in Nigeria and their Contributions” is not exhaustible. Sports, especially football, in Nigeria has been growing tremendously in the past few years, thanks to these heroes who have set the podium for future Nigerian sports stars.














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