By Oyediji Oluwaseun Babatunde
Sports Writer, kick442.com-Nigeria
We enter the top ten players that have played for Green/Eagles since 1945 as compiled by Soccernittygritty. The number 10 spot is occupied by former African footballer of the year who is popularly known as ‘Prince of Monaco’.
10. Victor Nosa Ikpeba
Victor Nosa Ikpeba grew up with his paternal grandmother in Sapele where he started his football career, kicking rubber balls on the streets with boys of his age before he finally decided to move to Lagos in search of greener pasture after
High School. He lived with his uncle who wasn’t a big fan of the sport , he demanded more from Victor academically, hence, wasn’t exactly supportive of his aspirations. As a way of compromise, Ikpeba sought and earned admission into the prestigious aba College of Technology while still following his passion on the side.
It wasn’t long before his unique abilities got found out by National team handlers and Lagos professional club, ACB. He prioritized the national team and moved to the U17 camp which had a large pool of teenagers preparing for the Scotland 1989 U17 FIFA
World Cup. Long story short, Ikpeba made the final cut, signed for ACB and headed to Scotland .
The immensely talented cum underachieving team were eliminated in the Quarter finals by eventual
Champions , Saudi Arabia on penalties , it was a premature exit given the quality in the team, yet, Ikpeba had done enough to turn a few heads including the great Pele, who named Ikpeba in a list of future stars which had compatriot, Godwin Okpara, Roberto Carlos and Luis Figo to name just a few.
Ikpeba returned home to team up with ACB, but not for too long.
He was quickly snapped up by Belgian outfit, Liege. The naive teenager struggled to come to terms with his reality. He lived in a hotel for a while, but in a bid to easing his assimilation of the Belgian culture , he was adopted by a family amongst the locals for 2 years to learn the language, culture and keep his focus. It worked. The result was evident on the pitch, his hitherto bland profile started soaring by the minute. In the 1992/93 season, Ikpeba scored 17 times, won the Ebony Award- (an award given to the best African player in the league) and was also named second best player in the entire league.
A couple more impressive seasons with Liege exposed his predatory instincts in front of goal from his left-wing position.
He quickly caught the attention of charismatic national team manager, Clemence Westerhof and earned an invitation in 1991 en route Senegal 1992 African Cup of Nations (AFCON). He made the final cut to AFCON , his second major competition for Nigeria in only 3 years having inadvertently missed out on the FIFA U21
World Cup in 1991 as a result of a ban on Nigeria. Ikpeba was clearly observing apprenticeship in a team with glut of strikers as Rashidi Yekini, Samson Siasia and Jonathan Akpoborie. He sat out most of the tournament, finally got a nod in the broze medal game where the Super Eagles triumphed 2-1 over Cameroon. He returned to Belgium , continued his superlative club form which culminated in a 4-year spell of 79 appearances and 27 goals.
He was a bright prospect in Europe who naturally pricked the mind of a manager with the intuitive ability to excavate nascent talents, Arsène Wenger.
Like most young prospects, Ikpeba initially struggled with the upgrade and by the time he started easing his way into the team, Wenger was shown the exit door. Banipe, the youth team coach replaced him on the interim and stuck to Wenger’s philosophy, however, things took a new turn for Ikpeba as soon as Jean Tigana was installed as Manager. Amid frustration, Ikpeba kept his cool and forced Tigana to look his way with impressive showings for club and country. The ream team (1996 Olympic football team) were treading a tightrope after a slim 3-2 triumph over Egypt in an olympic qualifier. The stage for the return leg was set and the Egyptians were favorites to go through knowing 1-0 victory was all they needed to be in Atlanta. In the end, a scorcher of a goal by Victor Ikpeba silenced the home crowd. The game ended 1-1, the Nigerians landed in Atlanta and the rest is history.
Nonetheless, he was instrumental to the history with his contributions which included a fierce shot out of nowhere in the Seai finals against Brazil. The goal triggered a historic come back.
With renewed vigour, Ikpeba returned to club duties, scored 13 league goals which helped
AS Monaco clinch title, showed similar rich vein of form in the UEFA Cup where he emerged second highest goal-scorer.
Ikpeba had attained a fearsome pedigree in Europe such that his team-mate, the legendary Jurgen Klinsmann often wondered why he was a fringe player with the Super Eagles, the German canvassed a lead striking role for Ikpeba ahead of the then “irreplaceable” Yekini. Ikpeba had no issues strapping Klinsmann on the bench and he thought why not Yekini. In the end, the winger turned striker spent 6 glorious years with
Monaco , 2 titles including the league and French Super Cup, 55 goals in 170 caps, several superlative showings in Europe, one of which sent Manchester United packing in the Quarter final stage of the UEFA Champions League before exiting the tournament themselves in the Semi finals by a
Zidane -inspired Juventus in the 1997/98 season. He was nicknamed “Prince Of Monaco” in a goal-laden spell and mentored youngsters like the great Thiery Henry and David Trezeguet.
Ikpeba sustained his form for club and country in 1998, duly earned not only a spot in the France 1898 bound Super Eagles but also finally getting the lead role following Yekini’s demotion. The erstwhile first choice had paid his dues and was on the verge of international retirement after a glorious 14-year dominance. Ikpeba led the attack, registered a World Cup goal against Bulgaria at the group stage, but it wasn’t long before the complacent and distracted Nigerian side were bundled out of the
Years passed and Ikpeba still held on to the top striking role with the Auper Eagles regardless of club-form with Boroussia Dortmund. He led the attack at the 2000 AFCON and got 2 goals, both coming in the opening game against Tunisia . In the end, Ikpeba featured 31 times and scored 7 goals for Nigeria most of which he scored after the exit of “Goals-Father”- Yekini, having spent long periods of his ‘prime’ in the national team doldrums and found starting 11 impossible for absolutely no fault of his. He participated at 4 AFCON and 2
World Cup tournaments, won an Olympic
Gold medal and deservedly named African Footballer of the Year in 1997.
All rights reserved. This material and any other digital content on this platform may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, written or distributed in full or in part, without written permission from our management.
This site is not responsible for the content displayed by external sites