BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Stocky Tijani Babangida was possibly the last player to be eliminated in the final list of Nigeria’s squad to the 1994 World Cup. He later had his time, becoming one of the heroes of the Atlanta ’96 Olympics and also scoring a goal at the France ’98 World Cu.
He will probably look back at this day, if he remembers his roots in the Super Eagles.
It is on this date, 25 May 1994 that speedy right-winger made his debut for the Nigerian Super Eagles at the Stadionul Steaua in Bucharest. He however did not have a winning debut as Nigeria lost 2-0 to Romania in Bucharest in a pre- 1994 World Cup warm match.
Babangida started the match but had to be substituted in the 54th minute by regular, Finidi George. By then, the Super Eagles were already two goals down through the efforts of Ilie Dumitrescu in the 22nd minute and Dan Petrescu in the 49th minute.
Babangida later played virtually all his club football in the Netherlands, featuring for VVV Venlo, Roda JC and Ajax Amsterdam. For Nigeria, he was part of the historic Olympic gold medal-winning side of 1996 and also played in the 19998 World Cup scoring a consolatory goal in the 4-1 loss to Denmark in a Round of 16 encounter.
In the march to the 2002 World Cup, he scored vital goals, especially in the last qualifying match with Ghana in Port Harcourt.
Babangida had 37 other appearances for the Super Eagles. The last, being the third place match against Mali in Mopti at the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations’.