The statute of South African President -Jacob Zuma, which was recently unveiled by his excellency the executive Governor of Imo State Owelle Rochas Okorocha has caused uproar among both Imo State indigenes and social critics in the country, questioning the credibility of such actions.
While criticisms continue on the decision made by the Imo State governor to have the statute of Jacob Zuma unveiled in a capital city where he (Zuma) has not made any significant input, Sport Intelligence Magazine suggests the consideration of statutes of at least one of these 7 Imo sons and daughters, who has brought fame and made landmark achievement for both the state and Nigeria as a whole in the area of Sports.
Our suggestion is just 7 out of the numerous Imo Sons and daughters who have done the nation proud through Sports.
Kanu was part of the team that won the Japan 1993 U-17 Fifa World Cup, before captaining the Atlanta 1996 squad to an Olympic gold medal, making Nigeria the first African nation to win the third most recognized fifa tournament for men’s football after the Fifa World Cup and Confederations Cup.
Kanu’s significant role in Nigeria’s success in the semifinal against Brazil is landmark achievement, scoring the shocking equalizer in 90 minutes before banging in the golden-goal which shocked the Brazilian studded-side and sending Nigeria to her first ever final in the Olympics.
In club football, Kanu alongside Finidi are the first Nigerian players to ever win the UEFA Champions league in 1995 with Ajax, and he is also the only Nigerian with the Most appearances in the European tournament. He has made 81 appearances in all with Ajax, Inter Milano, Arsenal and Portsmouth.
Aside being an accomplished footballer, Kanu is also a kind-hearted man whose love for saving lives gave rise to the Kanu Heart Foundation (KHF). Since the launch of KHF in 2000, It helped not just people in Nigeria, but also paid for 538 children to be treated at facilities throughout the world.
CHIOMA AJUNWA-Long Jump
The history of Nigeria at the Olympics cannot be written completely if Chioma Ajunwa’s name is not mentioned, after she became the first Nigerian to win the Olympic gold at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.
Ajunwa broke the 32 year-old Olympic Gold-jinx for Nigeria, after Nojim Maiyegun won Nigeria’s first bronze at the Olympics through boxing in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Her completing this feat as a young Nigerian police officer in 1996, earned her instant promotion from the rank of an Inspector of Police to an Assistant Superintendent of Police II, which was two cadres away from her previous rank.
Aside official promotion in her place of work, Ajunwa also earned a Chieftaincy title in Mbaise Imo state where she hails from, as Nwadioha Nma I of Igbo Land, which means a daughter that is loved by the entire Igbo Land.
In December 2012, the Olympic gold medalist told Sport Intelligence Magazine that the Rochas Okorocha led administration gave her a letter of appointment in 2011 as the chairperson on grassroots development for female football in Imo State through one Chief Amanze. But that appointment according to her existed only on paper as she did not hear from the governor till date.
Amuneke is arguably one of the greatest accomplished left wingers Nigeria have ever had, who scored significant goals in his career as a footballer that earned Nigeria gold on two occasions.
He scored Nigeria’s first and winning goal against the Chipolopolo of Zambia at the Tunisia 1994 final, propelling the team to win the African cup of nations for the second time after her first in I980. His success at the Tunisia 1994 earned him the African Footballer of the year award with 48 votes, beating the duo of Liberian George Weah and team mate Rashidi Yekini who were joint runners-up with 44 votes each.
Amuneke also played a very vital role in Nigeria’s success at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics scoring the winning goal against Argentina in a 3-2 win that saw him beat the offside track set by the Argentine defence in the 18-yard-box.
Amuneke is arguably one of the two Nigerians who ever played for Spanish giants FC Barcelona between 1996 to 2000, where he made 19 appearances and scored only once. Injury however hindered his further performance for the Spanish side.
Upon retirement from active football in 2004, Emmanuel Amuneke went into coaching and obtained his UEFA Pro A License in Spain where he was actually a course mate with current Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
In 2014 he was appointed by the Nigeria Football Federation as the head coach of the Under 17 football team, where he guided the Cadet team win the tournament in Chile 2015 for the fifth and the second consecutive time. That was also the first time Nigeria won the tournament outside Asia.
The Uratta in Owerri North of Imo State born ex-international was Super Falcons goalkeeper who made significant contribution in the goal post with the female national team.
Chiejine who made 14 appearances for the female national team, helped Nigeria win four African Women’s Championship in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2004. She was also part of the Nigeria’s team who represented Nigeria at the inaugural edition of the FIFA Women World Cup in 1991 and later at the Summer Olympics in Sydney 2000.
After retirement from active football, Chiejine proceeded to South Africa, United States and Germany where she completed her CAF Coaching License, B License Coaching Course and B License UEFA Coaching Course respectively.
Her wealth of accomplishment and experience in Sport was recognized by the Lagos State Government under the Fasholoa’s administration, when she was appointed to coach the female football team ahead of the National Sports Festival tagged Eko 2012.
The appointment paid-off as Chiejine led the youth team win the gold medal in the final
CELESTINE BABAYARO (IWUHOA)-Football
It would be difficult for many to believe that Celestine Babayaro is from Imo State, but the fact remains that Celestine and his brother Emmanuel are from Amaigbo in Nkwerre LGA Imo.
The name Babayaro was as a trade name which they adopted, it was the name of their coach/chairman Alhaji Sabo Babayaro of Jama’a Road Kaduna while his real name is Celestine Iwuoha.
Celestine Babayaro is arguably one of Nigeria’s accomplished left-back who was part of the Japan 1993 U-17 winning team that won the title that year, before proceeding to play for the Olympic Gold medal football team that conquered the world in Atlanta 1996 Olympics.
Babayaro cannot be forgotten during his hey days in the Olympic team, as his leg-over shot against Brazil in semifinal was what Roberto Carlos converted to an own-goal, to give Nigeria her first goal before the team reached the final.
More still he opened scoring for Nigeria in the final against Argentina before Amokachi and Amuneke scored the remaining goals that gave Nigeria victory.
After his success with the 1996 Olympic team, he captained the Nigerian Olympic football team at the Sydney 2000 Olympics were Nigeria were edged out by Chile 4-1 in the quarter-finals and he later made it to the South Korea/Japan 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Babayaro would for ever be remembered for his acrobatic celebrations with backflips and loved by fans both at club and national team.
In 2015, the former Chelsea left-back was recognized and appointed as ambassador for Kaduna United.
CHRISTY OPARA-Track & Field
Christy Opara-Thompson is an athlete and 1997/98 60 meters Fastest Woman in the world and also won the 1992 Olympic Bronze medalist on Track and Field for Nigeria in the 4 x 100 metres race alongside Beatrice Utondu, Faith Idehen and Mary Onyali.
After winning the Bronze in Olympics at Barcelona 1992, Opara also represented Nigeria at the 1994 Commonwealth Games held at the Centennial Stadium in Victoria, British Columbia. Where she won Gold in women’s 4 x 100m and also won Bronze in Long Jump.
Christy Opara-Thompson who is also the founder of Soho24 Sports Garden in Abuja once commented on the poor state of managing the Nigerian athletes during the International Women’s Day celebration, where she also called for the scrapping of the Ministry of Sport.
On June 6, 2017 it was reported that Christy Opara alongside Super Eagles former Coach Samson Siasia, former President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria Ejike Asiegbu and others launched a project to end Herdsmen-farmers clashes through sports and entertainment.
Iheanacho is arguably the youngest on our list and the hope for the future, so it was for the Owerri-born footballer when the Confederation of African Football (CAF) named him the Most Promising Talent of the Year for 2013 at the CAF Awards.
The 21-year-old Super Eagles forward got fame for himself when he emerged as the Most Valuable Player in the 2013 FIFA U-17 Championship held at the United Arab Emirate.
At the senior national level he has made 12 appearances for the national team scoring 7 goals in all, more important is to note that in all the matches that Kelechi Iheanacho scored for the senior national team, the Super Eagles did not lose.
Though Iheanacho is yet to make much achievement for himself and the nation at the national level, the former Manchester City forward became the most sought player after helping his side conquer the world at the junior cadet championship.
Arsenal, Manchester City and a host of other clubs wanted him, but because he was not yet up to 18, he had an agreement with Manchester City to sign a professional contract with them when he celebrated his 18th birthday, which he eventually did.
Kelechi Iheanacho moved from Manchester City to Leicester City on a £25million contract in the summer of 2017.