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20 Lagos Principals' Cup Prodigies Who Attained International Prominence

From the late 70s up till early 90s, the Lagos Principals' Cup was hotly contested by secondary schools in the State.

Aside from being the most followed grassroots sports competition in the State at the time, it also served as a veritable scouting ground for clubs in the State and neighbouring States such as Ogun, Oyo and Osun.

The tournament churned out a rash of talents, some of whom left the game after secondary education while several others went as far as representing the country at various international levels.

*L-R: Samson Siasia, Dosu Joseph and late Stephen Keshi.

At the moment, there is a concerted effort to revamp the competition, which may not have as much impact in football development, due to prevalent apathy for sports activuties in schools, inadequate facilities and dearth of talents at schools across the State.

It is against this backdrop, this writer refreshes our minds with profiles of 20 products of the competition that went to attain global prominence, with some winning the Africa Cup of Nations and Olympic football gold, as well as laying down the marker at FIFA World Cup finals.

Haruna Ilerika (Zumratul Uslamiya Grammar School)

A native of Epe, Lagos State, Ilerika also represented Lagos City College in the competition between 1967 and 1969, serving as captain and coach in 1969 before moving to Zumratul Grammar school.

Nicknamed the "Master Dribbler", late Ilerika wore the number 9 jersey while in the national team from 1971–1976, the same period he distinguished himself at Stationery Stores. His last game for the Lagos darling club was the final of the 1981 Cup Winners Cup, which they lost to Cameroun's Union Douala 2-1 on aggregate. 

He later became a coach, and was Vice-Chairman, Lagos State Football Association at the time of his death. 

Henry Nwosu (Saint Finbarrs College)

Unguably one of the best products of the competition, the dimunitive midfielder went on to play for NNB FC, ACB Lagos, ASEC Mimosas and RC Bafoussam of Cameroun. 

The left-footed Imo State indigene was a key member of the national team from 1980–1991, scoring eight goals in 60 appearances.

Nwosu, who later coached a few clubs in the domestic scene, is fondly remembered for scoring a seemingly clean goal that was disallowed by the centre referee in 1988 AFCON final match against winners Cameroun. 

Godwin Odiye (Saint Finbarrs College)

The USA-based was a mainstay at Saint Finbarrs, where he marshalled the defence with great savvy.

Odiye went on to play for Nestle FC and National Bank of Lagos before he left for greener pastures in USA, where he laced boots for Greek-Americans from 1983–1994. 

He established himself as a key member of the national team from 1976–1980, and is fondly remembered for scoring an own-goal in a World Cup qualifying tie against Tunisia in Lagos, which cost Nigeria a ticket to 1978 World Cup finals. He represented Nigeria 

at the 1976 and 1980 African Cup of Nations finals, with Nigeria winning the latter on home soil after defeating Algeria 3-0 in the final. 

Tajudeen Disu (Ansar Uddeen, Isolo)

Nicknamed 'Ghaddaffi’, Disu distinguished himself in the heart of defence of Ansar Uddeen College. 

He was a prominent member of the great YSFON team that brought glory to Nigeria, winning youth competitions from Sweden to Denmark to the USA in the early 1980s. He was also an integral part of the first Flying Eagles team to qualify for the 1983 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Mexico.

Disu was in the silver-winning Green Eagles team at 1984 AFCON in Ivory Coast, and held sway in the defence of defunct Abiola Babes that reached four straight FA Cup finals between 1984 and 1987.

Adokiye Amesiemeka - CMS Grammar School, Bariga)

Adokiye was a major pin-up in CMS Grammar School, Lagos. Under his captaincy the school won the competition after defeating St. Finbarr’s College in the final.

Adokiye played for Rangers, Sharks, ACB and the national team while studying Law at University of Lagos.

Later nicknamed 'Chief Justice' by late ace commentator, Ernest Okonkwo, Adokiye was a member of the team that won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1980, distinguishing himself in the final. 

He also represented the country at the 1980 Summer Olympics and featured prominently at the 1978 and 1982 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

Franklin Howard (Baptist Academy, Obanikoro)

A nail-tough defender, Howard was one of several young footballers admitted by the school to pursue their Higher School Certificate while representing them in Principal Cup.

He had already represented Hussey College in the Warri version of the competition before coming back to Lagos. He quickly found his way into the school team and was also made the vice captain. 

Howard won laurels for the school until he landed at the national U20 team, the Flying Eagles in 1978.

He was capped a few times at the senior level.

Paul Okoku (Saint Finbarrs College, Akoka)

Okoku was a consistent stand-out performer for Saint Finbarrs, who like most other schools admitted footballer for HSC and to also enhance their football teams.

Then a defender, Okoku went on to lay down the marker at the national U20 team, Flying Eagles, serving as vice-captain of the squad to the 1983 FIFA U-21 World Cup in Mexico.

He was also a key member of the team that won the WAFU Cup in 1983 after defeating Ghana in the final.

Stephen Keshi (Saint Finbarrs College, Akoka)

Arguably the most prominent among them, Late Stephen Okechukwu Keshi remained the most conspicuous player in the competition, just as he was in all the clubs he played for, as well as the various national teams.

He was captain the Flying Eagles and Super Eagles, leading the latter to triumph at 1994 AFCON in Tunisia and qualifying the country for World Cup the first time in USA the same year.

 Keshi earned 60 caps for Nigeria at senior level, making him the nation's second-most capped player at the time of his retirement. Prominent among his many firsts is being the only person to have won AFCON as player and coach, having guided Super Eagles to triumph at the 2013 edition in South Africa.

The Azare indigene died on 7 June 2016 in Benin City.

Chris Anigala (Saint Finbarrs College, Akoka)

A striker of no mean repute, late Anigala represented Saint Finbarrs and went on to become a prominent player in the Flying Eagles.

He later graduated to the Super Eagles, making a handful of appearances before calling time on his career.

Anigala passed on in 2009. 

Samson Siasia (Saint Finbarrs College, Akoka)

Another great ambassador of the competition, Siasia shone in the colours of the Akoka-based school before going on to lace boots for several clubs within and outside Nigeria, including Julius Berger, Flash Flamingoes, El-Kanemi Warriors, Lokeren, Nantes, Tirsense, Al-Hilal, Perth Glory and Zafririm Holon.

The Bayelsa State indigene who has a stadium named after him at the State's capital, Yenagoa, represented the country at U20 level before graduating to Super Eagles, scoring 16 times in 51 appearances from 1984–1999.

He was part of the team that won AFCON in 1994 and reached second round at FIFA World Cup in USA the same year.

The former Nantes striker also excelled as coach of the Nigeria U20, U23 teams, guiding the latter to a second-place finish at 2008 Olympic Games in Beljing before taking charge at Super Eagles from 2012 to 2013 and briefly in 2016 

 Fatai Folorunsho Amao (Zumuratul Islamiya Grammar School)

A sleek midfielder, Fatai Amoo excelled in his pivotal role for his school in the competition.

He played most of his club football at First Bank, which he later coached for several before taking up managerial role at  Shooting Stars, Sunshine and Julius Berger.

Popularly called 'Arsenal' Amoo, a devout Moslem was capped twice by Nigeria , making his debut against Kenya on 6 July 1985.

He is currently the handler of the Nigeria U17 team, the Golden Eaglets.

Edema Benson (Zumuratul Islamiya Grammar School)

Also a midfielder, Edema Benson represented Zumuratul Islamiya in the competition a few years after Amoo did.

After his secondary education, Benson became an integral part of the New Nigeria Bank FC of Benin-City that dominated West Africa for several years under the tutelage of late Willy Bazuaye.

He later took to coaching after lacing boot for a few more clubs, including ACB FC of Lagos, holding the reins at Ikorodu United for some years.

Benson earned a few caps for Super Eagles in the late 90s.

Wakilu Oyenuga (CMS Grammar School, Bariga)

Largely revered for his serial prowess just like Mutiu Adepoju, Oyenuga was one of a few products of CMS that stood out in the competition.

He had gone on to play for Stationery Stores, where he spent most of his club career. He later joined up with the likes of Segun Odegbami at IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan, which later metamorphosed to Shooting Stars Sports Club.

He was known more for his exploits with clubs than the national team, where he belted a few games.

Olusegun Olukanmi (St Finbars College, Akoka)

A highly productive midfielder, Segun Olukanmi excelled in the colours of Saint Finbarrs, alongside his sibling, Femi.

He represented the country at U20 level before quickly graduating to the senior team, where he played in midfield alongside Ademola Adesina, Paul Okoku, Chibuzor Ehilegu, Friday Ekpo and a few others.

Femi Olukanmi (Saint Finbars College, Akoka)

For some years, Femi and sibling, Segun distinguished themselves in pivotal roles for St Finbarrs.

They were together in Flying Eagles and later graduated to the Super Eagles, where they belted a few games before leaving for the USA 

Waheed Akanni (Anwarul Islam College, Agege)

Akanni excelled in defensive midfield role for Anwarul Islam College and was a notable name in the competition.

He spent his youth career at NAOC FC KODA FC before signing his first professional contract with NEPA, Lagos in 1983. He later played a season with 

Flash Flamingoes before leaving for USA, where he laced boots for Howard University, Boston Bolts and Maryland FC.

Akanni was a key member of the Flying Eagles from 1984–1985, as well as Super Eagles from 1986–1989.He later became Chairman, Lagos State Football Association.

Tarila Okorowanta (St. Gregory's College, Obalende, Lagos)

One of the most daring and skilful player the competition produced for many years, Okorowanta terrorised defenders for several years as a player of St. Gregory's College. 

The Bayelsa State indigene who was also noted for his stubbornness, was capped seven times for Super Eagles following his promotion from the U20 team. He was part of the senior team that finished as runners-up at 1984 AFCON in Ivory Coast.

Okorowanta played for a number of clubs in the Nigerian elite division and was a member of the Stationery Stores that finished as runners-up in 1981 and 1982 editions of African Cup Winners Cup.

Tunde Disu (Ahmadiya College Agege)

Disu played as a striker for Ahmadiya College and was known for dribbling skills and ability to keep opposing defender on the back foot.

He captained his school to win the prestigious competition in the 60s and was among the first set of players to make the national team from school.

After school, he played for Electric Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) and Nigeria Airways Football Club even as a teenager, winning the Oba Cup in the ’60s with the former.

He later coached the various national teams, and is renowned for guiding the U20 team to a second-place finish at the 1989 World Youth Championship in Saudi Arabia, where the team came from 4-0 down 28 minutes to full time to beat USSR at the semi-finals.

 Disu later became Technical Director of the defunct Nigeria Football Association.

Martin Eyo (St. Finbarr’s College, Akoka)

Eyo was an attacking midfielder and one of several products of St Finbarrs who went on lay down the marker at the highest level of international football.

He made a name for himself in the domesticeague and was a member of the historic Nigeria team that won the Africa Cup of Nations trophy on home soil in 1980.

Dosu Joseph (Igbobi College, Igbobi)

Dosu is unarguably the best goalkeeper produced by the competition. 

He won the Cup with Igbobi College in 1987 before defunct Julius Berger handed him his first professional contract in 1991. 

He joined Italian outfit, Reggiana in 1996, the same year he guided Nigeria to Olympic football gold in Atlanta. 

Dosu was capped thrice for Super Eagles from 1996–1997, when his career was cut short by a ghastly automobile accident on Ikorodu Road in Lagos.

Content created and supplied by: Godaik (via Opera News )

Dosu Joseph Lagos Samson Siasia State Stephen Keshi

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