Nigeria’s senior national football team, the Super Eagles enjoys followership from a large percentage of the country’s population. The team’s achievements in time past have also won the Eagles many admirers across Africa and beyond.
The Eagles have emerged winners of the African Nations Cup twice, they have also won silver and bronze on a number of occasions. The exploits recorded by the Eagles over the years have given Nigeria a place among the top rated nations in African soccer. In this piece, WOLE ADEJUMO presents Nigeria’s all time highest goal scorers.
Rashidi Yekini (37 Goals)
Yekini, a former African Footballer of the Year had a career that saw him playing in several clubs across Africa and Europe. In Nigeria, he played for UNTL, Kaduna, Shooting Stars of Ibadan and Abiola Babes of Abeokuta after which he moved to Cote d’Ivoire where he played for Africa Sports, Abidjan. Rashidi Yekini was a member of Nigeria’s team to the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988. He also played in the African Cup of Nations in Morocco the same year. He later moved to Europe where he joined Victoria Setubal in Portugal. He emerged the highest goals scorer in the Portuguese league in the 1993-94 season scoring 34 goals in 32 games. He was the highest scorer in the 1994 edition of the African Nations Cup. Yekini scored Nigeria’s first ever World Cup goal against Bulgaria in the 1994 World Cup. He scored a total of 37 goals for Nigeria in 58 games.
The former captain of the Green Eagles was one of those who made the number 7 jersey a popular one in the national team. His educational background as an Engineer and calculated dribbles across the right flank earned him the nickname “Mathematical Segun Odegbami.” His 46 caps for the Super Eagles produced 23 goals.
He was largely instrumental to Nigeria’s success at the 1980 edition of the African Cup of Nations and he played for Shooting Stars of Ibadan his entire career which ran between 1970 and 1984. He retired after Shooting Stars’ loss to Zamalek of Egypt in the final of the African Cup Winners’ Cup in 1984.
Yakubu Ayegbeni (21 goals)
With a total of 21 goals in 57 appearances in Nigeria’s national colours, Yakubu Aiyegbeni occupies the third position on Nigeria’s all time scorer’s chart. Yakubu who is fondly called “Yak” plays for Blackburn Rovers. He was the highest goal scorer ion the Nigerian Premier League in his days at Julius Berger. He moved from the Lagos club to Israel where he laced boots for Maccabi Haaifa. Yakubu made his international debut for Nigeria in April 2000 against Eritrea in a qualifying game for the 2002 African Nations Cup.
Since he got to England, he has played for Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton and Leicester City. Over the years, Yakubu has created a lasting impression in the clubs he played for. He has scored more than 100 goals since he started playing in England in 2003. Yakubu’s miss in front of an open goal in a game against South Korea at the 201 FIFA World Cup is yet to be forgiven by many. There are also indications that his feats in the English Premiership in the current season might win him another invitation to the national side.
Obafemi Martins (18 goals)
His goal scoring prowess earned him the nickname “Oba Goal”. Martins, who was born in 1984 moved to Italy at the young age of 16. He broke into Inter Milan’s senior team in 2002. He left in 2006 and joined Newcastle of England. He has since played for Wolfsburg in Germany and Rubin Kazan of Russia from where he was loaned to Birmingham City in early 2011. He played in the African Cup of Nations in 2006, 2008 and 2010 as well as the 2010 World Cup. From his 37 games for Nigeria, he has 18 goals to his credit.
Sunday Oyarekhua (17 goals)
Sunny Oyarekhua, a policeman was one of the best strikers in his time. He was discovered while playing for Police Football Club of Lagos. He was thereafter drafted into the national team, then known as the Green Eagles and he justified his inclusion by scoring on his debut, a friendly game against Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) in 1971. Oyarekhua was also part of Nigeria’s team to the 1973 All Africa Games, where he was the leading scorer in the Nigerian team. He scored a total of 17 goals for Nigeria in 28 games. Oyarehua retired as a Commissioner of Police.
Daniel Amokachi (14 goals)
Daniel “The Bull” Amokachi was the favourite of many Nigerian football fans in his playing days. He won his first national team call up under Clemens Westerhof while playing for Ranchers Bees of Kaduna. As an 18-year-old then, he was part of Nigeria’s team to the African Cup of Nations in Algeria in 1990. After a 5-1 bashing from the hosts, Daniel and his team mates still went ahead to win silver, losing 0-1 to Algeria in the final match. He later moved to Club Brugge in Belgium and after the 1994 World Cup in which he scored a goal for Nigeria, he moved to Everton for a fee of £ 3 million.
He won the English FA Cup with Everton in 1995. He did the unimaginable in the semi-final match against Tottenham Hotspurs when he brought himself on as a substitute without the approval of Joe Royle, Everton’s Team Manager then. Amokachi however scored two goals in that match.
Amokachi was also a member of Nigeria’s gold winning team at the 1996 Olympic Games.
From Everton, he moved to Besiktas in Turkey and not very long after, injury problems forced him to retire.
After his playing career, he took coaching courses and he has managed Nassarawa United and Enyimba of Aba, both Nigerian clubs. He was also appointed as Assistant Coach of the Super Eagles again in 2011. That marks his third time in that capacity, having resigned in 2007 and re-appointed to assist Shuaibu Amodu in 2008.
Austin Okocha (14 goals)
Augustine Azuka “Jay Jay” Okocha is unarguably one of the best attacking midfielders Nigeria has ever produced. Though he has been in retirement for some years, his deft moves, dribbles, step-lovers and well taken shots have not been forgotten.
He comes from a line of footballers as his dad was said to have been a footballer in his younger days. Though many believed the name Jay Jay was passed from James, Austin’s elder brother who also played soccer, but all the Okocha brothers were referred to by that nickname and it was assumed by many in Enugu to be their father’s nickname. Another of his brothers, Emmanuel was in Nigeria’s team to the African Nations Cup in 1990.
Austin started his playing career with Rangers International of Enugu and after a stint with a Third Division German side, he moved to Eintracht Frankfurt in 1992. He was also a member of Nigeria’s U-20 team that failed in Mauritius in 1993. Austin Okocha lit up most of his games at Frankfurt with displays that got him noticed. His goal against Karlsruhe in which he dribbled past about 5 defenders and Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn was voted goal of the season by many in the 92-93 season. Other clubs he played for include Fernabache, Paris Saint Germain, Bolton Wanderers and Hull City.
His first game for Nigeria’s Super Eagles was in a 1-2 loss to Ivory Coast in May, 1993 in a World Cup qualifying game. In Nigeria’s next game against Algeria in Lagos, Okocha stamped his entry into the national team by putting a well curved free kick past the Algerian goalkeeper.
He was a member of Nigeria’s winning 1994 Nations Cup team as well as the USA ’94 World Cup team. He also won gold with the Nigerian team in the 1996 Olympics. In a total of 73 appearances for Nigeria, Jay Jay who was also the captain of the Super Eagles for some time scored 14 goals. Though he never won the prestigious African Footballer of the Year award, he was named in the list of Top 100 footballers compiled by football legend, Pele.
Julius Aghahowa (14 goals)
At 18, Julius became his county’s revelation of the Nigeria ’99 World Youth Championship. He stated his playing career with the Police Machines after which he moved to Insurance of Benin. His exploits at the World Youth Championship in ’99 saw him going to Esperance of Tunisia and from there, he signed for Shaktar Donetsk. Though he is currently on the payroll of Shaktar Donetsk, he is on loan to PFC Sevastopol.
He scored Nigeria’s only goal in the 2002 World Cup. Aghahowa’s 32 appearances in Nigeria’s colours produced 14 goals.
Asuquo Ekpe (14 goals)
Asuquo played for Nigeria in the 1960s. He had 14 goals to his credit. He played in Nigeria’s game against Ghana in September 10, 1960. The match ended in a 2-all draw in Lagos. He also played in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in 1962.
Ikechukwu Uche 13
27-year old Uche began his playing career with Amanze Football Club after which he moved to Iwuanyawu Nationale of Owerri. While playing in Recreativo de Huelva, then a second division side in Spain in 2005-2006 seasons, he emerged as the League’s highest goal scorer with 12 goals in 28 games (scoring 5 braces).
After a long battle with injuries, he returned to action in February and scored his first goal of the season for Real Zaragoza in March. During the summer transfer, he moved to Villareal and was immediately transferred on loan to Grenada FC. In September, he scored the lone goal as Villareal fell 0-1 to Grenada.
In 34 matches for Nigeria, Uche has scored 13 goals.