Is Mobi Oparaku a memorable Super Eagles Right Fullback

At this Olympics year (although suspended due to the global corona virus) Afrofooty steals this opportunity to remember a member of Nigeria's Gold winning Dream Team squad of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Mobi Oparaku. The right fullback by trade will go on to represent the Super Eagles in the 1998 World Cup in France.

Indeed, Mobi Oparaku was a very decent right full back in his days. I think he could not rise above the shortcomings present by his height and petit stature. At 5 ft 10 in, he was a rather short defender with big tall imposing attackers always seeking to take advantage.

Still, his defensive solidity and all round play were a contributing factor to Nigeria winning the Olympics football tournament in 1996.

Two years later, the now-43 year old started the game against Spain in what remains to be (arguably) Nigeria’s finest hour in the Fifa World Cup in which a 3:2 victory provided false hopes of a team that could reach the quarter finals in 1998. That team indeed had the qualities talent wise to push for a place in the semi-finals of the 1998 world cup. But, lacking in uniformity of purpose, camaraderie and discipline to power Nigeria to greatness, they fell like a pathetic pack of cards in the 4:1 humiliation against Denmark in the second round. A performance eclipsing the victory against Spain. As for Oparaku, his own world cup and meaningful Super Eagles career ended when he was substituted for Rashidi Yekini in 69th minutes of the match against Spain with Mutiu Adepoju deployed to shore up his right full back position that had been clearly suspect all through the match.

In fact, Spain’s second goal just after restart in 47 minutes had been scored because a glorious long ball from the middle of the park by Hierro had looped over Oparaku whose last ditch efforts with his outstretched legs still came short of preventing Raul (spotting jersey number 10)to race through and stab home with a volley made in heaven. That would be the last time the Spanish would breach our defences as Mutiu Adepoju’s deployment to the right fullback position helped to make our backline bulletproof for the remainder of the game. Adepoju would go on to play Oparaku’s right full back position for the rest of the tournament. A class act in under 23 football, Oparaku could neither exert nor impose himself compellingly in senior team football. However, his willing combative nature and desire to go the extra mile – despite his shortcomings – endeared him to many Super Eagles fans who followed the game at that era. Even to date, very few fans have anything negative to say about his contributions. Mobi Oparaku – not a legend, but a star in his own rights.


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