The news recently of legendary Super Eagles defender Taribo West's claims of sexual activities of some team members prior to the second round encounter against Spain in France 98 World Cup has brought fans talking about something else relating to the centre defence role in the Super Eagles: who is the most exciting Super Eagles centre defender in the last 30 years?
Afrofooty now uses this opportunity to subjectively look at some of the best centre defenders ever to kit up for the Super Eagles in that period.
The centre defence is one of the least glamorous departments on the field of play however the importance of what they do to support the team’s efforts from the rear can never be overstated!
Some daredevil defensive manoeuvres have left imprints in our memory. I remember Godfrey Oboabona’s daring dive to twist his body like a snake in order to prevent the ball just about crossing the line against Ethiopia in a world cup qualifier – amazing!
I think centre defenders are the ones who do the real dirty work. It’s a shame organisers of global football awards tend to favour strikers and attacking midfielders more. If the defence is weak, no matter how many goals scored by the strikers, the team will ultimately lose the game.
Now, to chronicle Nigeria's best centre defenders. My choice is purely a personal and not based on any scientific principles.
1) Taribo West: my number one has to be West. His stature, deterrent capabilities, tackles and exploits in club football does it for me.
2) Uche Okechukwu: simplicity personified. He slots into the position seamlessly and carries our his job with elegance.
3) Joseph Yobo: played better as a right back before his conversion to a centre defender. He had his flaws but was sturdy for most parts.
4) Kennedy Omeruo(error prone): He will not even make the top 15 of many people’s list but I still like him. He can be mobile and timely with his tackles. But he has lets himself down on occasions.
5) Danny Shittu : for a big lad, he was quite mobile. His partnership with Yobo was chaotic at times but he shields the ball well and can be neat in tackles.
6) Godfrey Oboabona: he wasn’t particularly young when he burst into the International scene but his performances showed that homebased players can be a part of a tournament winning Super Eagles team.
7) Leon Balogun: His interceptions and tackles are often neat as well as his defensive positioning.
8) William Troost Ekong: he always seems up for it! His aerial prowess and ability to clear up any mess endears him to Super Eagles fans. But he is becoming too error prone.
9) Uche Okafor (of blessed memory): never an automatic starter but always affable and prepared when called up.
10) Furo Iyenemi: I had expected much from him after powerful showings at the back in the 2000 Afcon. A no-nonsense centre defender who wasn’t perturbed by the calibre of the opposition, Iyenemi faded to obscurity after the tournament.
The late Stephen Keshi, who is a legend of Nigeria football, was a dynamic and efficient centre defender of supreme quality in his days.
There were others like Sunday Eboighe and Azubuike Egwuekwe who performed diligently when called upon.