Kanu, Babayaro, Amunike, Babangida: the best of the 90’s

African football is a collection of stories about humble beginnings, crazy skills and creative tactics. National teams from the continent rarely achieve major successes at international competitions. However, their dazzling performances are always remembered.

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Back to the topic of the article, we’ll have a look at the amazing careers four players from the 1994 World Cup squad made and what are they doing now.

Nwankwo Kanu

After a historical double against the Brazilians in 1996, Kanu moved to Inter Milan. Immediately after his triumphant return, Inter doctors discovered a complex heart defect in the football player.

He was urgently transported to the United States, where a 14-hour valve replacement operation brought him back to life and football.

In 2000, Nwankwo opened a fund to help people with heart disease, which is still active to date. With his help, more than five and a half thousand people in need of urgent heart surgery have already received treatment.

In football, Kanu won all the trophies at the club level: he rocked in the undefeated Ajax under van Gaal and the dominant Arsenal with Wenger.

The forward ended his career at Portsmouth and always astonished football fans with the technique while being huge and tall.

At the end of his career, Nwankwo finally concentrated on community service and is trying to make a life for Africans a little better.

Celestine Babayaro

Almost immediately after winning the Olympic Games, he moved from Anderlecht to Chelsea. There Celestine surprised everyone with his speed on the left flank, where he overtook almost anyone. By the way, Celestine was the first African in the history of Chelsea.

Babayaro won the Cup Winners’ Cup, European Super Cup and FA Cup. After a glorious career in England (11 years for Chelsea and Newcastle), Celestine transferred to Los Angeles Galaxy, which was run by David Beckham.

Babayaro expected that it’s a stroke of luck, he would not train and organise himself a luxurious life in the USA, but he failed.

He clashed with the management because of uncomfortable housing, economy-class flights and short rest periods. Babayaro got tired of everyone very quickly and ended his football career without playing a single match in the MLS.

Emmanuel Amunike

After the sublime World Cup-94, Amunike (he scored against Italy and Bulgaria in the tournament) started to play in the European leagues and moved to Sporting Lisbon from the eternal Egyptian champion Zamalek.

There he won the National Cup and scored actively for almost three years, but after the fabulous 1996 Olympics, he rose even higher.

His winning goal against Argentina at the Olympic Games attracted the interest of the giants. In 1997, he moved to Barcelona.

Amunike started great there too, but a cruciate ligament injury brought him out of the Catalans squad for a long time. After that, the Nigerian never recovered, and in 2000 he left Barça. After four years of wandering, he ended his career.

Amunike coached the Tanzanian national team and was offered an assistant position in the Nigerian national team in 2020 but refused.

Tijani Babangida

Babangida was one of the fastest footballers in the 90’s and early 2000s. His career started in 1996 when the whole world learned about the frenzied Nigerian energy. Ajax emphasised Tijani Babangida on the transfer list and soon strengthened his flank. Moreover, just that summer, the Amsterdam team sold his compatriot and flank colleague George Finidi to Betis.

Before the transfer, Tijani had already played in the Eredivisie for Roda but, of course, moved for 5 million to Ajax. Then there was the impressive 97/98 season, in which the dashing Nigerian became the third top scorer of the team with 13 goals (after Litmanen and Arveladze), but gradually the magic weakened.

After the year 2000, Ajax rented out Babangida three times, and after the end of the contract in 2003, Tijani moved to China. There, Babangida’s four goals were decisive. They helped Changchun Yatai to become champions.

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