‘Thunder’ Balogun Vs ‘The Flying Cat’ Rigogo – Incredible Stories of Nigerian Football Superheroes

 This may sound like fairy stories today. I know not many in this millennial generation ever heard that there were football superheroes that existed in this country Nigeria in the 50s’ and 60s.’ I think th onus is on some of us who grew in the 70s’ to tell these stories to our younger ones today.

I read the true story of ‘Thunder’ Teslim Balogun… and I think Kayode Balogun tried to play down the myth.

…as kids we heard that Thunder’s shot actually ripped goalies stomach open and at other times the ball burst open the goal net…

We also heard that no one born of a man ever scored ‘The flying cat’ Inua Lawal Rigogo…. These guys were our folk heroes!

You may say and I agree, many could have been given to exaggerations, because the stories were handed down orally from one generation to another. You know what they say about oral history… Heck!

But Kayode, Thunder’s son may not even be in the best position to tell the true story of his father’s football incredibility. You know why…?

Thunder died at the age of 45 in 1972, while kayode was only 8years old. Kayode didn’t see him play even in a training session.  He only heard the stories just like us.

The myth that surrounded the football of Balogun and Rigogo, suggests that these two guys weren’t just football stars; their performances way transcended natural abilities only to be described as – SUPERHEROES.

Let’s over look the exaggerations, I personally believe these two folks of ours were truly extraordinary footballers and I’ll tell you why?

Try to picture the 50s and imagine how the British related with our fathers then… For Thunder to be the first Nigerian player transferred to an English Football League team after the Red Devils (Nigeria National team then) toured the UK in 1949, tells you that Balogun was truly a super player… in spite of the racial discrimination of that era, Thunder was able to break into the first team of FC Peterborough.

Did you know it was actually Kwame Nkurumah, Ghana’s President then that nicknamed Rigogo “The Flying Cat?” After he watched Rigogo display some incredible somersaults, flying from pole to pole to the extent that the Ghanaian national team couldn’t score him a single goal in 1964… in his spellbound amazement, Nkurumah named Rigogo  “The Flying Cat.”

Did Thunder Balogun Ever Played Against The Flying Cat Rigogo?
They may have played against one another since Thunder Balogun starred for Railway XI and Rigogo for ECN all in Nigeria’s Elite division then. But we do not have any record of such epic matches.

While I think the generations that saw Thunder and Rigogo live still remain a few; it can be a good case study for football history scholars… to go out there and dig out the historical remains from them before they all die. 

 Their findings will be good for a documentary film and perfect stories for kiddies’ comic books or what do you think?


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