Tijani Babangida was born on the 25th September, 1973. Babangida, who was fondly called and nicknamed “TJ”, was born into a large family in the city of Kaduna. He was married to Rabah (now his ex), the sister of Daniel Amokachi‘s wife.
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Career as a Footballer
TJ was a Nigerian former professional footballer, who played as a winger. Known for his pace, his playing style was sometimes compared to that of Marc Overmars. Babangida spent the majority of his playing career at Ajax. Overall, he played in five different countries on three different continents. At club level, Babangida spent nine years in Netherlands, playing for VVV-Venlo, Roda JC and Ajax, winning the Eredivisie plus KNVB Cup double with the latter side.
He played over 30 games for his national side, including four at the 1998 World Cup in France. He participated in two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments and won the 1996 Olympics with Nigeria. Babangida made his international debut in 1994. He lost his place in the squad right before the 2002 World Cup. After a two-year lay-off from international football, Babangida was recalled to the Nigeria team for the 2004 African Cup of Nations preparations in Tunisia.
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Babangida received his first call-up to the senior Nigeria national team for a pre-World Cup friendly against Romania in 1994. He then played in a friendly against Georgia, but did not make the final squad for 1994 World Cup. Babangida’s international chances were partly limited due to the fact that he often found himself behind Finidi George in the pecking order. He played an important role in his team’s Olympic triumph in Atlanta in 1996, as Nigeria overcame tough resistance from Brazil and Argentina, packed with the likes of Dida, Roberto Carlos, Bebeto, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Hernan Crespo, Claudio López, Ariel Ortega and Diego Simeone among others. Babangida took part in Nigeria’s 1998 World Cup campaign, playing a total of 120 minutes as he started one game and came on as a sub in the other three. He scored his team’s only goal in the second-round defeat to Denmark. In January 2001, Babangida appeared in an exhibition game at the Yokohama International Stadium (known as the Nissan Stadium nowadays), playing for FIFA XI in a game against the unified team of Japan and South Korea.
Babangida only made his African Nations Cup debut in 2000 as Nigeria withdrew from the 1996 edition in South Africa due to political reasons and missed out on 1998 African Cup of Nations through disqualification. Babangida scored two spectacular goals against South Africa to put Nigeria through to the final against Cameroon, where they drew 2–2, before being narrowly defeated 3–4 on penalties. He appeared in all of his team’s five games, starting two.
He then featured in Nigeria’s run to the 2002 World Cup finals, scoring two important first-half goals against Ghana on the final day of the 2002 World Cup qualification, helping Nigeria seal the final African region World Cup berth. Babangida played in all of his team’s games at the 2002 Nations Cup, but was dropped ahead of the World Cup, alongside several other experienced players like Sunday Oliseh and Finidi George. He was recalled to the national team for the pre-Nations Cup training camp in Faro, Portugal in 2004, but did not make the final squad, making the 2002 Cup of Nations his last major international tournament.
Some of his footballing honours include:
- Summer Olympics: 1996
- Eredivisie: 1997–98
- KNVB Cup: 1997–98, 1998–99
- Turkish Cup: 2000–01
On a club level, he played for clubs such as Niger Tornadoes locally, Dutch Eredivisie side Roda JC, VVV-Venlo and Dutch giants Ajax where he made his mark. In the later stages of his career, he played for He Turkish Süper Lig side Gençlerbirliği, Al-ittihad in Saudi-Arabia, and Chanchung Yatai in China.
Featured Image Source: Futaa
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