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Rovers World Cup Connections: Nigeria

7 June 2018

With the World Cup about to begin in Russia, we look at connections between Bristol Rovers Football Club and the 32 participating countries.

In some cases these connections are strong and multiple; in others they are tenuous, at best. Nigeria have competed in six of the last seven World Cup Finals.

Nigeria's 2018 Squad

Two members of the provisional Nigerian World Cup squad have played against Rovers and both were in the same fixture.

Rovers lost 3-2 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in a League Cup tie in August 2016, the home side featuring both Ola Aina and Victor Moses, who scored one of their three first half goals. Full-back Aina was born in October 1996 in London and has four full caps.

Winger Moses was born in Lagos in December 1990 and has scored 11 goals in 29 full internationals. His red card against Arsenal in the 2017 FA Cup Final made him the fifth player ever to be sent off in the final of that tournament.

Nigerian Pirate

Although no Nigerian player has yet made a first team appearance with Rovers, the club did sign Ben Iroha in 2000.

Born in Aba in November 1969 and the holder of 52 full caps for his country, Iroha had been withWatford for two years before joining Rovers and, prior to that, had played in Holland, Spain and the United States. A midfielder, he retired on leaving Rovers and has since coached a number of sides in Nigeria. 

Eleven opponents in the Football League have been born in Nigeria, the most recent being Magnus Okuonghae, born in February 1996, who was in the Luton Town side which faced Rovers in January 2016.

Thirteen International Players

No fewer than 13 players have opposed Rovers down the years and also represented Nigeria in international football, ten of them in the Football League.

The most recent of these was Shola Ameobi, once of Newcastle United, who has ten full caps and played in Notts County's side which defeated Rovers 4-2 in the FA Cup in November 2017.

The first two Nigerian opponents were in the Orient side of the late 1970s, midfielders John Chiedozie and Tunji Banjo, who won nine full caps each.

Brothers Sam Sodje (Notts County and Charlton Athletic) and Efe Sodje (Gillingham, Macclesfield Town and Luton Town) both played against Rovers, the latter being sent off at Moss Rose in May 1999; a third brother, Akpo Sodje, who did not win international honours, played for both Darlington and Charlton Athletic against Rovers, whilst their nephew Onome Sodje was in the Nuneaton Town side which played Rovers in the Conference in January 2015.


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