BY KUNLE SOLAJA
Sweden will be a recurring decimal when the saga of Nigeria’s former hard-tackling defender, Taribo West is written.
He began his Super Eagles career with a friendly match with Sweden, just before the USA ’94 World Cup and ended his competitive career with Sweden in the second group game of Nigeria at the 2002 World Cup at the Wing Stadium, Kobe, South Korea.
He however made a cameo appearance with the Super Eagles in a 17 August 2005 friendly match with Libya when he was substituted by Obinna Nwaneri.
But it was on this date, 5 May 1993 (26 years ago) that Taribo came in in the 63rd minute to replace Benedict Iroha in a friendly match with Sweden as Coach Westerhof continued to inject new blood into his World Cup-bound Super Eagles.
It was Taribo’s first outing with the Super Eagles. Nigeria lost the match, 3-1.
Wole Odegbami, the younger brother to African legend, Segun Odegbami scored Nigeria’s only goal in the 73rd minute, reducing the tally to 2-1 before the Swedes consolidated their lead.
The Swedes took the lead in the third minute through Stefan Schwarz. Henrik Larson doubled the lead just before half time.
Coincidentally, it was the same Henrik Larson that scored the goals that ended Taribo’s career in the Super Eagles when Nigeria lost 2-1 to Sweden in 2002. Zlatan Ibrahimović was an unused substitute in the match.
In the 2002 game, Larson scored in the 35th minute to cancel an earlier lead Nigeria had through Julius Aghahowa’s header. Larson scored again through a penalty kick in the 63rd minute.
Taribo played the game with stitches on his left eyebrow after being injured in the game. It was his last for Nigeria, as he was not fielded in the last Group F match against England.
In the 1994 match, Taribo West did not make the final cut for the World Cup. He was however a member of the Super Eagles to the 1998 and 2002 World Cup finals.
The 42-capped defender, now head clean, is best remembered for his various unusual and colourful hairstyles.
His international laurels include the 1996 Olympic Games’ gold medal. A discovery of Coach Monday Sinclair in Port Harcourt, Taribo West won several trophies with Auxerre in French football and also played for the two great clubs of Milan in Italy, Internazionale and AC Milan.