Meet The Anioma Born Football Legend Who Was Nominated As FIFA World Best Player

The Anioma region of Delta State has produced numerous international football legends in the likes of Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Stephen Keshi, Monday Odiaka, Joel Obi, Peter Ijeh, etc. But this football star shone for Poland all through his illustrious international career which saw him nominated as the FIFA World player of the year in 2002.

Emmanuel Olisadebe was born December 22, 1978 in Warri Delta State, Nigeria. His parents hail from Ibusa in Oshimili North L.G.A. He established his name all over Delta State as one of the greatest athletes to ever grace the tracks during his secondary school days at St. Anthony's College Ubulu-Uku, Delta State. By the time he finished from secondary school, his name remained on the lips of his thousands of fans as they will cheer his name "Oli, Oli, Oli" each time he bursts into the tracks.

Emmanuel Olisadebe started his football career as a striker at Jasper United, a football club based in Onitsha, Anambra State. Between 1995–1997 he already made 40 appearances scoring 20 goals including some in the CAF Champions League in which they lost out in the semifinals.

His prolific displays, strength and composure in front of goal caught the attention of Polish club Polonia Warsaw who went on to sign him and from 1997 to 2001 he made a total of 66 appearances for the club and netted 20 goals. In his first season at the Polish capital he helped the club secure their first championship title in 50 years in the 1999–2000 season, scoring 12 goals in the process and winning a treble including Ekstraklasa, Ekstraklasa Cup and Polish Super Cup.

Then, he signed for Greek giants Panathinaikos with whom he made 74 appearances and scored 24 goals between 2001 to 2005. He helped the club to win their first title after seven years trophy draught by scoring in all three of the last four championship matches. His spell in Panathinaikos was truncated by injury.

Unlike his fellow Anioma born striker Peter Ijeh who was the top scorer in Sweden in 2002 with 24 goals but was snubbed by Nigeria in their team selection for the FIFA World Cup, he obtained Polish Citizenship and started to represent Poland.

Olisadebe celebrates his 2002 World Cup Goal for Poland
He scored a total of  11 international goals and was capped 25 times by the Poland National team between 2000 and 2004. He netted eight times in ten qualification matches including the famous goal against Norway that sealed their place in the Korea/Japan 2002 FIFA World Cup. Olisadebe scored Poland's opening goal of the tournament as they thrashed United States Of America 3–1 but failed to qualify for the second round.

In January 2006 he signed for English Premier League side Portsmouth where he only managed 2 appearances with no goal recorded. Olisadebe who struggled to get in the starting line up was forced to move to Skoda Xanthi where he featured in 6 matches before signing up to play for APOP Kinyras Peyias in the 2007/2008 season. He ended up making a total of 17 appearances with 6 goals to his credit. In the 2008/2010 season he signed with Chinese Super League side Henan Construction where he made 64 appearances and netted 24 times.

He suffered a career threatening patellar ligament injury to his left knee in the game against Shanghai Shenhua after scoring the opening goal in the fixture. He returned to Greece in 2011–2012 where he signed to represent Vyzas Megaron but he never made the starting line. He later joined
Veria and made 9 appearances scoring only once.

In 2013, he drew the curtains on his illustrious career in 2013.

His personal honours include:

  • Polish footballer of the Year: 2001
  • Fourth-best Polish sportsman of the Year: 2002
  • Chinese Super League MVP: Two time runner up
  • Nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year: 2002.
  • He was granted citizenship due to his extraordinary football talent by the Henan province of China. 
  • He is the first black player to represent Poland and he is currently an Ambassador of FIFA in the fight against racism in football.

By Ngozi Onwordi Fortune

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