Five Lesser-Known Members of the 1996 Olympic Winning Dream Team

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Kanu Nwankwo, Jay Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Garba Lawal, Tijani Babangida, Daniel Omokachi, Emmanuel Amuneke, Taribo West are names that easily come to mind whenever you hear the dream team mentioned. There are eighteen players in all that Coach Bonfrere Jo led to glory in Atlanta. More than a dozen of them are household names today. You probably haven’t heard about these fellows:

Abiodun Obafemi

This six-foot tall defender was born on Christmas Day (1973) in Lagos. He played for local club Stationary Stores before jetting abroad, in 1993, to ply his trade. He was in Fortuna Koln for a year before switching to Fortuna Düsseldorf where he spent two years. Obafemi was part of the Super Eagles in 1997, earning two caps. He retired in 2001 having played about 100 official football matches. Obafemi has never scored a goal.

Teslim Fatusi

His full name is Teslim Babatunde Fatusi. He was born in Lagos on September 17, 1977. Fatusi is a widely travelled player having played in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, South Africa, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Switzerland. He is currently with the Miami Dade in the American Premier Soccer League. Of the players who made history in 1996, Fatusi is the only one still playing active football.

Fatusi made his senior national debut in 1996, scoring from the spot-kick in a friendly against the Czech Republic. Fatusi has four caps for Nigeria. He was part of the gold-winning team in 1996 although he didn’t feature in any match.

Mobi Okparaku

The defender Mobi Patrick Oparaku was born on December 1, 1976, in Owerri, Imo State. He was part of the 1993 Under-17 World Cup-winning team. After winning the Olympic gold in the US, Okparaku was promoted to the national team where he played eight matches for the Super Eagles in seven years. Although Okparaku had spent most of his playing days in Belgium, he had stints in the United States and Jamaica. In 2005, Okparaku returned to Nigeria where he featured for Gateway FC of Abeakuta and Enyimba respectively. He retired in 2010.

Emmanuel Babayaro

Emmanuel Hyacinth Babayaro was born on Boxing Day of 1976 in Kaduna. He is the younger brother of fellow Olympic gold-winner and former Newcastle and Chelsea full-back Celestine Babayaro. Emmanuel was part of the squad to the All-African Games in Zimbabwe in 1995 where Nigeria won the bronze medal. Babayaro remained the first choice goalkeeper in the build-up to the Olympic until he had a bitter spat with the coaching crew which led to him being dropped.

After Atlanta, Babayaro who was one of the two home-based players in the games (the other being Dosu Joseph of Julius Berger) left Plateau United for Turkey where he featured for Besiktas. Babayaro never made it to the senior national team.

Babayaro owns the Pioneers Academy. At the time of writing, Babayaro is the president of Kaduna United FC.

Kingsley Obiekwu

Kingsley was born in Ibusa, Delta State in 1974. He started his professional playing career in 1992, featuring for then-household name Udoji United where he spent three years (1992-1995). Obiekwu played for clubs in the Netherlands, Dubai and Egypt before returning to Nigeria in 2003 to play for Enugu Rangers for three years then retired. Obiekwu has had a coaching stint with USS Krake, a club in Benin Republic, then spend four years coaching Ingas FC Enugu.

 

 

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