Sports History

A Look Back At Notable Nigerian Sports Heroes and Heroines

Nigeria marked its 61st anniversary of independence in October. This is an excellent occasion to take a look back at the country’s sports heroes and heroines. Nigeria is highly regarded when it comes to sports. It has produced great sportsmen, and women respected regionally and internationally.

The love for sports in the country has also made sports betting very popular and competitive,  with the promotion code for bet9ja offering exciting online wagering opportunities. Some of the notable sports in the country include football, basketball, boxing, wrestling, and table tennis. Here are great sports heroes and heroines the country has produced:

Dick Tiger – Boxing

Dick Tiger
Dick Tiger

Older Nigerian generations know that boxing is the sport that brought international honour to the country. Dick Tiger Ihetu battled Gene Fulmer of the US and clinched the World Middleweight boxing title. The epic fight took place at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan

Innocent Egbunike – Track and Field

World Athletics Championships: Innocent Egbunike of Nigeria during 400 m at The World Athletics Championships on September 2, 1987 in Rome, Italy.
World Athletics Championships: Innocent Egbunike of Nigeria during 400 m at The World Athletics Championships on September 2, 1987 in Rome, Italy.

Innocent Egbunike won Nigeria’s first Olympic Games medal in the 1984 Games held in Los Angeles. He put in a great performance to win the bronze in the 4×400 men’s race. Before that, Nigeria had won different medals at the All Africa Games and the Commonwealth Games. 

Chioma Ajunwa – Track and Field

Chioma Ajunwa
Chioma Ajunwa

Nigeria’s most memorable moment in athletics came in 1996 during the Games in Atlanta. Chioma Ajunwa did the indescribable when she won the Women’s Long Jump event gold. She jumped 7.12 meters record ahead of other tested world champions. Another great performance worth mentioning is Falilat Ogunkoya, who won an individual bronze medal in the 400 meters. Ahead of her were Frenchwoman Marie Jose Perec and Australian Cathy Freeman. 


When it comes to football, Nigeria has recorded several firsts. Of all its sports achievements, becoming the first African nation to clinch the Olympic men’s football at Atlanta in 1996 is arguably the most significant honour for Nigeria in Football. 

Nigeria Squad Atlanta 1996 Olympic Lineups
Nigeria Squad Atlanta 1996 Olympic Lineups

That squad, led by Nwankwo Kanu, was dubbed the “Dream Team.” after that achievement, it earned a place as one of the greatest sporting moments in Nigerian history. The 22 names of the squad members are embossed in golden letters at the Atlanta Olympic Stadium. 

The players who put in the most spectacular football display include Sunday Oliseh, Mobi Oparaku, Victor Nosa Ikpeba, Daniel Amokachi, Tijani Babangida, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Emmanuel Amunike, Dosu Joseph, Nwankwo Kanu, Emmanuel Babayaro, and Celestine Babayaro. 

The women’s national team has also dominated the continent and featured in the World cup. 

Final Thoughts

However, Nigeria has not performed really well in international soccer tournaments in the last decade. This calls for a moment of retrospection to find out where the rain started beating them. 

Nevertheless, some athletes are still flying the nation’s flag high in foreign leagues. For instance, you will find a dominant player in the English Premier League, the NBA, boxing, among other sports. There is no doubt that Nigeria remains a key player in global sports producing some of the best athletes. 

Cite this article as: Teslim Omipidan. (December 5, 2021). A Look Back At Notable Nigerian Sports Heroes and Heroines. OldNaija. Retrieved from

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