Whether you like it or not, Nigeria is a sporting nation. Go outside the shores of this country and what most peeps relate to, is our sporting Heroes. During my short stay in Egypt last year, every single person I met just kept telling me how they loved Amokachi and Okocha (and how I looked so much like Okocha, abeg I fine pass dat guy jare). Our women have made us proud over the years and this piece is dedicated to all the women that have contributed their quota to sports in Nigeria. In no particular order, check out Nigeria’s Top 25 sports women over the last 50 years:
Princess Bola Jegede: She may not be an athlete, but this lady has contributed a lot to Nigerian football. She is the only female owner of a Nigerian football team (Jegede babes) and has been on the board of the NFF (Nigerian Football Federation) for so many years. She is part of the think tank that has ensured Nigeria remains number 1 in Africa’s women football.
Bose Kaffo: Do you like PING PONG? Then this name will be familiar. As a young boy, I used to watch this lady beat the hell out of grown men. She is the second Nigerian woman to compete at 5 Olympics after Mary Onyali. This lady has won 7 GOLD medals at the All-African games. GET FAMILIAR.
Mary Onyali-Omagbemi: Now this is a big one, my personal favourite. She is remembered for her 100m gold medal win in the 1994 Commonwealth games. She is renowned for coming back to shape after marriage and childbirth to win several IAAF races. She was the first Nigerian woman to compete in 5 Olympics and harnessed a total of 12 medals from all competitions (8 gold medals in all). She is still active with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN). Her contribution to Nigerian Athletics is huge.
Mercy Akide: I still believe this lady could have easily played for the super eagles, she was that good. She is Nigeria’s best female soccer player of all time. NO CONTEST. She was the first African Woman footballer of the year and paved the way for so many young ladies. She has so many records; I am not even going to bother naming them (We could beat an African country 8-0 and Mercy would score 6 GOALS, she was unbelievable).
Falilat Ogunkoya: Nigeria’s 400m Queen. She still has the African record of 49.10 sec in the 400m event. She is actively involved with the development of sports in Ogun state.
Chioma Ajunwa: She is the first Nigerian to win an Olympic gold medal (long jump at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta) and the first African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event. Now that is major. Her name will continue to be remembered in Nigeria’s sports history. If we had to scale this list, she would have be No. 1 without a contest. Did I also mention that she played football for the Super falcons and was once an officer of the Nigerian Police Force! She is too much joor.
Aisha Falode: Remember her? She is the famous sports presenter on AIT. She has contributed a lot to Nigerian football and served on the board of the NFF (Nigerian Football Federation) at some point in time.
Modele Sharafa Yusuf: When all we had was NTA (Nigeria Television Authority), before the super sports and the ESPNs, this lady was already giving sporting viewers the best commentary on almost all sporting issues. It was fun watching her on TV back in the days, God Bless you ma. She is now at Globacom.
Funke Osonaike: She was a table tennis specialist. Just like Bose Kaffo she has so many African titles to her name.
Florence Omagbemi: She captained the Country’s female National team (Super falcons) for so many years. She has won so many African Women’s Championship and played in two Olympic Games. She coordinated the team that had other notable players like Yinka Kudaisi, Kikelomo Ajayi and Christy George.
Fatima Yusuf: She made Nigeria proud by winning gold in the 400m event of the 1990 World Junior Championship and went on to win gold medal at the same event at the 1991 All African Games. She participated in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, winning a silver and bronze medal respectively.
Blessing Okagbare: This girl is just 21, but she is Nigeria’s future. She is a specialist in the long and high jump events. At just age 19, she won the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (long jump event). She is migrating to sprints and I must confess she is doing a good job. At the recently concluded African Championships, she won gold for Nigeria in the 100m and long jump event. She is my dad’s favourite and she is doing big things at the University of Texas, El Paso. GET FAMILIAR.
Violet Odogwu: My dad says she was Nigeria’s best female athlete in the 60’s. She won the bronze medal in the 1966 Commonwealth games (long jump event). Never saw this legend participate in any sports, but she paved the way for the big names, such as Chioma Ajunwa, Mary Onyali and Endurance Ojokolo.
Linda Ogugua and Mfon Udoka: These ladies put Nigeria on the map. Nigeria had never been known for Basketball, but these two contributed their all to the country. They led the country to the 2004 summer Olympics. At the Olympics, Udoka was first in rebounding and second in scoring points.
Perpetua Nwokocha: She is another talented football player. She has 3 Women’s African Football Championship to her name. She currently plays football in Sweden.
Vivian Chukwuemeka: I salute this lady; she participated in sports other people ran away from (Shot put, Discus throw and Hammer throw). She has a total of 12 medals in all competition with Gold medals in 2002 Commonwealth and African games, 2006 and 2008 African Championships. She was in a league of her own.
The Monu sisters (Ngozi and Uche): I used to have a crush on these sisters, and my crush graduated from Sunday school classes in church to watching them participate live in the Olympics. They set the pace in a sport (swimming) that is not common among Nigerians. Ngozi Monu participated in the 2000 and 2008 summer Olympics setting the fastest time by any Nigerian in the 50m freestyle event.
Gloria Alozie: She carved a niche for herself in the hurdles event. Nigerians loved her running style and despite becoming a Spanish citizen in 2001 she will continue to be one of Nigeria’s respected track stars. She won gold medals at two African Championships and still holds the African record at 100m hurdles.
Uche Eucharia: She is usually referred to as the Mother of female football in Nigeria. She was a wonderful player in her time and is the current coach of the female National team (the falcons).
Bisi Afolabi, Endurance Ojokolo, Oludamola Osayomi and Charity Opara: All four ladies have won various African Championships, Commonwealth and Olympic medals. You will agree with me that Nigerians are so talented when it comes to track and field events.
I might have missed out some notable names, but what do I know? I am just an olodo, passionate about American football.
One thing is for sure, I rep Naija, do you?