I considered letting you have the facts behind some of the popular nicknames of Nigeria football stars.
I feel it will be fun to know these tit-bits. It’ll make you feel like you are an insider, you’re close to these players, especially when you get to know the stories behind the nicknames, how it crop up and got stocked with a player. It is quite entertaining.
I selected for you 12 of the most popular nicknames, which in some cases usurped the real names of some particular stars. In case i didn’t mention a player’s nickname you are fond of, please feel feel to update us in the commentary box below.
1. “Mikel” John obi is the present captain of Nigeria national team – Super Eagle. His real names are John Michael Obi, but it was due to a mistake from an NFF official while filling his travel documents... and his international passport was registered with “Mikel” instead of Michael.
Now, fans prefer to call him “Mikel” instead of John or John Obi. The Chelsea midfielder didn’t make an attempt to correct the error, rather he quickly adopted it as his official name today.
2. “Papilo” Nwankwo Kanu is a Nigerian ex-international, often referred to as the most decorated Nigerian footballer in history.
Kanu’s nickname Papilo is still very popular around the football circle, but it didn’t in any way usurp his real name – Kanu.
“Papilo crop up while Kanu was young, but his looks were like that of an old man, even though he was about 14years old or so. Coupled with the fact that he has such a mature ball intelligence and wisdom in dealing with people in and off the field... so his friends nicknamed him “Papilo.”
3. “Prince of Monaco” Victor Ikpeba is a Nigerian ex-international and winner of CAF African footballer of the year 1998.
Ikpeba got his nickname at the later part of his career, while playing for AS Monaco. His amazing performances endeared him to the Duke of Monaco. Who severally invited him to banquets and special occasion... and his team mates and fans began to call him Prince – The Prince of Monaco
4. “Jay-jay” Austin Okocha is the former captain of Nigeria national team. Earlier in his career, Austin walked in the shadow of his elder brother Emmanuel Okocha, who was equally a football star – he played for Enugu Rangers, Iwuanyawu Nationale, Einchart Frankfurt
Emmanuel was the one who first had the nickname “Jay-jay” but as Austin grew in the game, fans in Enugu began to call him “jay jay” too.
And today, the nickname has stocked with Austin rather than the original bearer Emmanuel.
5. “The Big Boss” Stephen Keshi was the longest served captain of Nigeria national team – Super Eagles.
He got his nickname “The Big Boss” while he progressed in his career as a player... His Hugeness and extraordinary leadership qualities made him stand out among other players. He was a born captain and served in that capacity at several club sides in Nigeria and abroad.
He was generally respected with the way he led other players in the team... and it is said that the Nigeria national team Technical Adviser Clemence Westerhof usually consulted him before making team list for any tournament or game. So his team mates began to call him “The Big Boss.”
6. “Dodo Mayana” Peter Rufai is one of the most successful goalkeepers in Nigeria history. He captained the national team as well as his local club side = Stationery Stores of Lagos.
Rufai was nicknamed after Fela’s most popular dancer Dodo Mayana, while playing for Stationery Stores.
However, it wasn’t clear how the crop up. Some say it was what Rufai himself nicknamed Marijuana, which the players smoked liberally...
Others said it was what Rufai jokingly say anytime Charm (Juju) were handed to him by club officials... So the nickname stocked with him.
7. “10-10” Bright Omokaro is a Green Eagles hard core defender in the 80s.’ He became more popular after African Cup of Nation –Maroc’88.
In the match against Algeria: when Ademola Adeshina was given a red card that reduced the Nigerian team to ten men. Omokaro was then brought in to replace an attacker… since Eagles were leading by 1 -0.
Few minutes into the game, Omokaro went hard on an Algerian player and got him stretched out of the game. They couldn’t substitute any other player as they had already used their three substitute slot.
The commentator began to shout from the commentary box, “Omokaro has made it 10-10!” And from then, 10-10 stocked with him as a nickname.
8. “Mathematical” Segun Odegbami is perhaps the most popular attacking right winger from Nigeria. He played for the national team Green Eagles and IICC Shooting stars of Ibadan.
He’s one of the few Nigerian players that went to University – a graduate of Mechanical Engineer. I guess this also contributed to his nickname. But it was more of his speed and fast calculated runs and dribbles from the right flank that gave him the nickname –“Mathematical.”
Till date, Odegbami still adopts the name in his Column on Newspapers and other Journals.
9. “Chairman” Christian Chukwu is the former captain of the Nigeria National team Green Eagles and club side Enugu Rangers between 1974 and 1984. His leadership quality is similar to that of Stephen Keshi.
Chukwu’s astute defending style as the last man in his team central defense gave him the nickname “Chairman.” Something about his leadership quality is, he captained every team he ever played – from his school days to his peak career at the national team.
10. “Mountain of Gibaratta” Emmanuel Okala is one of the most popular goalkeepers in Nigeria football history. He was the Green Eagles first choice goalkeeper in a period when Nigeria had such great goalkeepers like Best Ogedegbe and Peter Fragene
Okala’s nickname “Mountain of Gibaratta” crop up due to his size and height 6.9 inches tall… and he stood frightful to any approaching striker. When Okala stood in between the goal post, it was almost impossible to score a goal.
11. “Thunder” Teslim Balogun is the most popular footballer in Nigerian history. Thunder Balogun’s story span over seven decades and still handed down through the country’s folklore to the generation next.
It was said that Balogun’s shot was like the strike of Thunder. And the story that his shot burst through a player’s belly and tore the goal net… was only a way to describe how powerful those ball shot were.
Thunder Balogun was so popular that most Nigeria didn’t even knew his first name as Teslim.
It was said that there was no man born of a woman that can score Rigogo. It was actually the Ghanaian President Kwame Nkuruma that nicknamed him “The Flying Cat” because of his post-to- post dives and acrobatic displays. Till date, only few people knew his real name as Anua Lawal Rigogo.