As the family of Nigeria’s legendary footballer, Tesilimi Balogun, marks the 48th anniversary of his demise, two-time chief coach of Nigeria, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde has emphatically stated that Balogun was the best footballer ever produced by Nigeria.
Balogun died in his sleep his sleep in 1972. Onigbinde, a former FIFA and CAF coaching instructor, noted that: The greatest footballer Nigeria has ever produced was Teslim ‘Thunder’ Balogun.
“There is no doubt about it. As a footballer, he did many things players before his time, those of his time and after and even years to come did not do and have not been able to do with the ball.
According to Onigbinde, the greatest goal scored by any player he had seen was scored by ‘Thunder’ Balogun at the Olubadan Stadium in 1958 during the reciprocal tour of Nigeria by selected England amateur players.
“The English players were always on him each time he received the ball. To beat the pressure off, ‘Thunder’ stood outside the 18-yard box with his back turned at the England goalkeeper.
“A ball was floated to him from the midfield and the English players were waiting for him to bring it down. But against their imagination, he staggered a bit, and in turning, he fired a shot at the goalpost, which saw the goalkeeper diving the other way while the ball was already shaking the net,” Onigbinde stated.
The former Trinidad and Tobago coach stressed that, “the story of ‘Thunder’ Balogun will never die. For those of us who watched him played, we saw him as Nigeria’s greatest footballer.”
Sports Village Square is in possession of a photograph taken in 1961 and has both Chief Onigbinde and Balogun along with Israeli-born Nigerian coach Moshe Berth haLevi and other bourgeoning Nigerian coaches of that era
Onigbinde noted: “He died in his sleep on July 30, 1972 at the relatively young age of 45years old, but the heroics of Thunder Balogun lives forever.
“Everybody called him Thunder Balogun but at birth he was named Tesilim Akanni Balogun. His father was a cricketer. He attained legendary status after he became the first Nigerian to play professional football in England.”
Teslim played for Apapa Bombers, Marine, Railway, Plateau, Pan Bank and Dynamo all between 1944 and 1961. He won the Challenge Cup five times in seven final appearances and was the first player to score a hat-trick in the Challenge Cup final when he put three goals past Warri XI as Pan Bank won the 1952 final 6-1.
In 1949, he was part of Nigeria’s first national team, known as the UK Tourists team that toured the United Kingdom. After that encounter he signed for Peterborough FC, becoming the first Nigerian to play professional football in England.
He also had professional stints with Holbeach and Queens Park Rangers where he played 13 times and scored three goals in 1956.
His playing career lasted from 1945 to 1962 and he was in the coaching crew for Nigeria to the 1968 Olympic Games where the country drew 3-3 against Brazil.