In the midst of the frequent search for greener pastures abroad by players in the Nigeria Professional Football League ( NPFL), there are few who by choice decided to stay and become legends of the local league.
Not many will be like Victor Ezeji who played for nine Npfl clubs in his career that spanned over 19 years from 1996 to 2015 with a one year stint at Club Africain in 2007.
While everybody adores a young player bursting through onto the scene and surprising the world, the NPFL has been blessed with some superb veterans throughout the years.
Today we look at players who have spent over 5 years in one or various NPFL clubs over the years in no particular order.
10. Chinedu Udoji – Kano Pillars
For those who don’t follow the NPFL deeply and consistently, they may be forgiven to think the hefty defender is still with Enyimba.
However, the hard as a nail defender joined Pillars at the beginning of the season ending his association with the side he captained to the league title in 2015.
Hardly will anyone list top 5 defenders from the NPFL without t27-year-oldold being listed, but the defender who has spent 10 years in the league, unfortunately, he hasn’t got a call up to the National team despite his exploits.
9. Okey Odita – Rangers
After long years of wait for a league title, the Flying Antelopes broke a 32-year jinx in 2016 to win the NPFL, Okey Odita was the lucky man who lifted the trophy as the captain of the side.
His one and only appearance for the super eagles came in 2004 which shows how long the defender have been in the game.
8. Isiaka Olawale – El kanemi
Many people recognise the Maiduguri Warriors’ midfielder as a beach soccer player as he is the captain of the Super Sand Eagles of Nigeria.
However, Isiaka Olawale has been in the NPFL for close to 15 years playing for four different clubs turning out for the likes of Enyimba, Dolphins, Kwara and Lobi stars before joining Elkanemi Warriors.
He was involved in the Super Eagles setup in 2007 under Berti Vogts.
7. David Tyavkase – Lobi Stars
Tyavkase is a CAF champions league winner with Enyimba when they won back to back champions league in 2003 and 2004.
The midfielder had stints with clubs on the African continent in Gabon before returning to Nigeria with Lobi stars of Markurdi where he currently plies his trade
6. Ikechukwu Igbenegbu – Enyimba
The Back to back Federations cup winners medal with Heartland FC is what the forward can boast of, he alongside Isiaka Olawale plays in the Super sand Eagles team, and so far has played with Warri Wolves before joining Enyimba.
After a decade in the NPFL which started with Elkanemi in 2006, he was called into the CHAN team in 2016.
5. Akpan Bassey – Rangers
16 years after playing in the u17 World cup final against France on 2001 where Nigeria lost, the goalkeeper is still waxing strong.
Having played for the likes of Shooting, Bayelsa United, Sunshine, Kwara United, Heartland, Abia Warriors and Akwa United, he was signed up by Rangers during their goalkeeping injury crises, the goalkeeper has spent close to 13 years in the league after stints in South Africa and Vietnam.
4. Gambo Muhammed – Kano pillars
A stalwart in the pillars attack, he alongside Rabiu Ali and Adamu Muhammed are core members of the Sai’ Masu Gida team who have been around for what seems like forever. He has over 70 goals in more than 200 appearances for pillars since 2006 when he joined from Buffalo.
The striker was with the team that represented Nigeria at the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil where he fluffed his lines against Spain in the 3-0 defeat and has since fallen out of the A team. However, he has represented the B team at the CHAN tournaments and has a goal in 7 matches
3. Ifeanyi Onuigbo – Fc Ifeanyi Ubah
The striker has an imposing figure with a deadlock on his head, he has spent over a decade in the NPFL with teams like Heartland and most recently Enyima starring in their Caf Champions league campaign last season.
He has since joined Fc Ifeanyi Ubah where he also featured in the Caf confederations cup this season, he is one of the few players who alternates between Beach soccer and the conventional football as he also features for the beach soccer team.
2. Rotimi Sunday- River United
The goalkeeper could easily pass as the oldest player in the league (and could possibly be the oldest), he has played close to 2 decades in the Npfl and he is currently the first choice goalkeeper for Rivers United helping them to a 2nd place finish last season.
As the case is with world class goalkeepers, Rotimi Sunday gets better as he ages, just 3 years shy of clocking 40, he made his debut in 1997 with Plateau United before going on to represent Sunshine, Elkanemi Dolphins and Enyimba.
The shot stopper made his national team debut as far back as 2001 deputising for Austin Ejide in an Afcon qualifier against Namibia and he accumulated 5 appearances in total for the A team and several others for the B team. His last involvement with the national team was a call up by Samson siasia in 2011 as a cover for Enyeama.
1. Rabiu Ali – Kano pillars
Another player over the age of 35, the midfielder won three NPFL titles with pillars between 2011 and 2014. The skipper of the Sai Masu Gida he has shown he becomes better like an old wine.
He won the latest version of the VAT wonder goal for his header against ABS in the match day 26 encounter in Ilorin. Apart from that, he scored a screamer against Remo stars in shagamu in another 1-1 draw to show he still has the spark despite being a 36 year old.
He was the captain of the B team of the super Eagles, leading them to third place at the 2014 CHAN in South Africa and also the 2016 edition where Nigeria dropped out at the group stage.
Other mentions are Adamu Muhammed, Dele Ajiboye, Cletus Itodo, King Osanga, Theophilus Afelokhai.