Until he joined Hansa Rostock in 1995 and his heroics helped turned the former East Germany club to German Bundesliga title-contenders, not many would remember that Jonathan Akpoborie once won a trophy for Nigeria.
Akpoborie is Isoko from Delta State but was born in Ajegunle, a slum in Lagos. He was part of a history making win for Nigeria in the maiden FIFA Under-17 World Cup in China’85. The then 16-year-old turned heads at the Workers’ Stadium, Beijing when he scored a gem of a goal against Germany barely four minutes into the final of the tournament on August 11, 1985. Victor Igbinoba later hit the back of the net to help the Golden Eaglets to a 2-0 victory over the Europeans.
The striker was selected by coach Chris Udemezue for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Chile two years later. Despite the Flying Eagles’ brillant array of stars, Nigeria failed to progress past the group stage of the competition won by Yugoslavia.
Akpoborie joined Julius Berger after Chile’87 and was an important player for the outfit. But his romance with the Lagos club ended when he got a scholarship to study Computer Engineering at Brooklyn College, New York at the end of the season.
He became a prominent member of the school team and this affected his studies.
“I couldn’t complete my studies because I later moved to Germany for professional football,” Akpoborie told our correspondent on the telephone during the week.
“I am considering going back to school to complete the course, but I’ve not decided yet.”
He joined FC Saarbrucken in 1990 and was there for two years.
Despite banking on Rashidi Yekini for goals, Super Eagles coach Clemens Westerhof could not afford to ignore Akpoborie’s goal scoring form in Germany as he selected him for the 1992 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal, where Nigeria won bronze.