Great players of Nigeria’s Cup


The Nigerian Cup has had its name changed from Governor's Cup to Challenge Cup, then Coca Cola Cup before its final nomenclature, Federation Cup.

In its 66 years, the Nigerian Cup has produced some great players, a list which of course is not exhaustive.

Pic: Thunder Balogun in team shot with Petersbourough United
Teslim Balogun (Marine FC, Railway FC, Plateau XI, Ibadan Lions)
The Governor’s Cup of the 1940’s and even in the 50’s clearly belonged to one man -Teslim ‘Thunder’ Balogun.

Balogun played together with Etim Henshaw in the first ever FA Cup (Governor’s Cup) final for Marine FC, who defeated Corinthians 1-0 in the final with Henshaw scoring.

Teslim Balogun or Thunder as he was fondly called for his power-packed shots, then went on to win three more titles with Railway FC in 1946, 1948 and 1949 to make him a prominent figure in that decade’s FA Cup history.

Sam Opone (Stationery Stores)
Sam Opone, nick-named ‘Zagalo’ by fans, for his majestic dribbling and shooting skills was also one of the great players of all time in the history of the FA Cup.

He led his team Stationery Stores to the 1967 final’s win, making them the first privately owned club to do so, with the feat repeated the following year in 1968.

This earned Opone the chance to captain the Nigerian side to the 1968 Mexico Olympics football event, along with seven other team-mates from the 1968 Stores FA Cup winning side.

Christian Chukwu (Rangers)
The 1970’s threw up a lot of players on the national scene, via the FA Cup, prominent amongst them was ‘Chairman’
Christian Chukwu whose majestic displays in Rangers’ defence led to three FA Cup consecutive wins.

First was in 1974, then 1975 and 1976 with Chukwu captaining all three final winning sides.

This earned the former Super Eagles coach a chance to play for the national team, then called the Green Eagles
and he went on to captain the team to a Nations Cup win in 1980 in Lagos.


Segun Odegbami (IICC)
Another great player from the FA Cup’s history is Segun ‘Mathematical’ Odegbami, who helped his team IICC,
now 3SC of Ibadan, win the FA Cup on two different occasions; in 1977 and 1979.

Odegbami’s dribbling prowess was extra-ordinary, especially on the right flank of attack, and he, alongside
team-mates like Felix Owolabi and the late Muda Lawal, helped break the strong-hold of Rangers over the FA Cup then.

His performances for IICC earned him a call to the national team together with Owolabi and Lawal and they were all
winners of the African Nations Cup in 1980 on home soil.

Peter Rufai (Stores)
The 1980’s produced a whole lot of players, notable amongst them the goal-keeper, Peter Rufai.

Rufai’s heroics helped his team Stationery Stores of Lagos claim the 1982 FA Cup with a 4-1 win over Niger Tornadoes
and it also earned him a call-up to the national team where he held sway for over a decade.


Edward Ansah (Leventis United)
Leventis united were also blessed with a talented goal-keeper in the late 1980’s in the form of Ghanaian Edward Ansah.

Ansah’s good form and a well drilled defence, comprising the likes of Andrew Uwe and John Benson, meant Leventis,
campaigning in the then third division, could beat a first division team to win the first of their two FA Cup titles
in 1984.

Ansah would go on to be Ghana’s first choice keeper for many years and his retirement from the national team left the
Ghanaians with a big hole to plug for some time.

Ambrose Duru (Julius Berger)
Ambrose Duru would also be remembered in the history of the FA Cup for his free-kick abilities that had rescued his team
on many occasions in the competition.

He served his club Julius Berger for many years and also captained his team to the 1996 FA Cup final, where his free-kick
goal on the day was the lone and winning strike, giving Berger their first final win.

Victor Ezeji (Dolphins FC, Enyimba FC)


Arguably the leading light of the FA Cup at the start of the millennium, Ezeji (In pic)has won the FA Cup three times with Dolphins;
in 2004, 2006 and 2007.

In the 2004 edition, Ezeji was top joint top scorer at the FA Cup alongside Bola Bello and Kelechi Osunwa and in the final they defeated hard-fighting Rangers of Enugu 1-0 with a late goal from midfielder Biola Bello in a game played at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin.

In the 2006 edition, Ezeji scored five goals in all in the competition including a goal in the final where they drew 2-2
with Insurance in full and extra time. They went on to win 4-2 on penalties.

Ezeji lifted the FA Cup a second time then in Abeokuta and also won the MVP (Most Valuable Player) award for the 2006 FA Cup.


Bola Bello (Dolphins and Kaduna United)

Goal scoring midfielder, Bola Bello has won the Nigerian Cup four times with Dolphins (2004, 2005 and 2007) and with Kaduna United (2010)

In 2004, he scored three goals in the Cup including the final match against Rangers to give Dolphins a 1-0 win and grab the Cup.

In 2006, he also won the Cup with Dolphins while in 2007, his goal in the semi final against Sharks ensured the game went into penalties which Dolphins won enroute the final.

In 2010 as a Kaduna United player, Bola Bello scored twice in the final against Enyimba as the game ended 3-3 and Kaduna eventually won on penalties.
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