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Meet The First Nigerian Professional footballer – Teslim Balogun (Thunder)

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Teslim Balogun AKA Thunder attained legendary status after he became the first Nigerian to play professional football in England.

Balogun was nicknamed “Thunder” because of his powerful shot and was also known as “Balinga” for a similar reason. During his time touring schools to coach youngsters, he was nicknamed “Baba Ball.”

Thunder Balogun was born Tesilim Akanni Balogun in 1927, Lagos to Oseni Balogun who was a cricketer and Awele Balogun.

Teslim Balogun was educated in Port Harcourt and graduated from St. Mary’s Catholic School. Balogun played in Nigeria for a number of teams, including Apapa Bombers, Marine Athletics, UAC XI, Railways XI, Jos XI, Pan Bank Team, Dynamos Club and SCOA XI.

In 1949 he was part of Nigeria’s first national team, known as the UK Tourists team that toured the United Kingdom.

During his time in Nigeria, Balogun won the Challenge Cup a total of five times in seven finals. He was the first player to have a hat-trick in the competition, in Pan Bank’s 6-1 rout of Warri in 1953.

Balogun returned to the UK in August 1955 to sign with Peterborough United, becoming the first Nigerian to play professional football in England.

However, Balogun never made a league appearance for Peterborough and spent time with Skegness Town before signing with Queens Park Rangers, scoring 3 goals in 13 appearances in the Football League during the 1956–57 season. After leaving QPR, Balogun returned to non-League football, playing with Holbeach United. Balogun was also a member of the Nigerian national side for 12 years.

Teslim Balogun became the first African to qualify as a professional coach. He was a coach for Nigeria at the 1968 Summer Olympics.

Teslim Balogun died in his sleep on 30 July 1972, at the age of 45, but the legend of Thunder Balogun lives forever. He had eight children.

The Teslim Balogun Stadium in the Nigerian city of Lagos is named in his honour. The Teslim Balogun Foundation was also founded after his death to assist the families of Nigerian ex-international footballers who may have fallen on hard times.

Two-time Chief Coach of the Super Eagles, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde described the late Teslim ‘Thunder’ Balogun as the best footballer ever produced by Nigeria.

According to Onigbinde who is a former FIFA and CAF Instructor, “The greatest footballer Nigeria has ever produced remains 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 him have not been able to do with the ball.”

Onigbinde added that “The greatest goal scored by any player I have seen played football was scored by ‘Thunder’ Balogun at the Olubadan Stadium in 1968 in the match between the Nigerian national soccer team, the UK Tourists and England. 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. But as soon as the ball was floated to him, English players were expecting him to bring it down. But against their imagination, Balogun staggered a bit, and in turning, he fired a shot at the goalpost, which saw the goalkeeper diving the wrong, while the ball was already shaking the net.”

Source : Wikipedia.

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