Top five greatest Nigerian players in the SA Premiership

Super Eagles players have definitely left their mark in the South African top-flight league.

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Nigerian players have featured prominently in the SA Premiership, as the West African country is known to be the biggest export of footballers in Africa.

Known for their natural ability and flair, Super Eagles players have definitely left their mark in the South African top-flight league.

Here is a look at the top five greatest Nigerian players in the history of the SA Premiership:

The retired tough-tackling central defender Muisi Ajao tasted success with giants Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns during his time in the country.

Known as the Beast, Ajao spent one season (1997/98) with Chiefs and he helped the Soweto giants clinch the 1997 Rothmans Cup (Telkom Knockout Cup).

The Beast, who could also play as a defensive midfielder, then moved to Sundowns where he joined a lot of success as he lifted two PSL titles and 1999 Rothmans Cup.

Furthermore, Ajao helped Masandawana reach the 2001 CAF Champions League final where they lost to Egyptian powerhouse Al Ahly.

Former Nigeria international Onyekachi Okonkwo had two stints with SA giants, Orlando Pirates and he also had a spell with Mpumalanga Black Aces (now known as Cape Town City).

Okonkwo was as a key player for the Buccaneers as they challenged for major trophies and he established himself as one of the top defensive midfielders in the country.

The tough-tackling midfielder helped Pirates finish second in the 2006 Absa Cup (Nedbank Cup) and Premiership (2005/06 season), and also reach the 2006 African Champions League semifinals.

Okonkwo’s exploits earned a move to Swiss side FC Zurich in 2007, but he returned to South Africa in 2012 and he rejoined Pirates before moving to Aces where he spent two seasons.

“I am a winner by nature and the reason I joined the team the first time was because I wanted to win things with the team,” Okonkwo said.

“Unfortunately it didn’t happen. We came close a couple of times but luck deserted us at the last minute.”

Retired goalkeeper Greg Etafia is one of the most loyal players in the history of the SA Premiership, having spent 13 years with Moroka Swallows between 2002 and 2015.

Etafia attained legendary status at the Dube Birds as he played an important role in helping the team clinch the 2004 Absa Cup, 2009 Nedbank Cup and 2012 MTN8.

An agile shot-stopper with good handling skills, Etafia retired from professional football at the end of 2014/15 season after Swallows were relegated to the GladAfrica Championship.

Etafia, who played 370 games for Swallows which is a club record in the Premier Soccer League era, came out of retirement earlier this season to serve as Highlands Park’s third-choice goalkeeper.

Former Nigeria international Williams Okpara is arguably one of the best foreign goalkeepers in the history of the SA Premiership having played for Orlando Pirates.

Okpara was key to Bucs success when the club clinched its maiden Premiership title in 2001 when he was considered one of the top keepers in the country along with Brian Baloyi, Andre Arendse and John Tlale.

Known for his sharp reflexes, leadership and shrewd positional sense, Okpara also won two BP Top 8 (MTN8) in 1996 and 2000 with the Soweto giants.

Okpara then added the 2002/03 Premiership winner’s medal to his collection before retiring in 2005. He holds the record for the most appearances for Pirates with 375 matches.

The retired marksman Raphael Chukwu is one of the most prolific strikers to have ever graced the Premiership having had three spells with Mamelodi Sundowns.

Chukwu, who was blessed with strength and finishing ability, inspired Masandawana to two Premiership titles and Bob Save Supa Bowl between 1996 and 1999, before moving to the Italian club, Bari.

Nicknamed Chukwu Train, the left-footed hitman was named Premiership Footballer of the Year and Players’ Player of the Season in 1998 as a reward for his outstanding performances.

The Chukwu Train, who scored 63 goals in 124 starts in the Premiership, had two more spells with Sundowns during the 2000/01 season and 2004/05 campaign.

In partnership with ANA and Sports Leo

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