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Editorials, Sports

Nigerian Footballers in the History of the Ballon d’Or Awards

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit the Nigerians who have earned Ballon d’Or nominations over the years, paving the way for Oshoala and Osimhen.

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 25th October 2023
Nigerian Footballers in the History of the Ballon d'Or Awards

Fans across the world are anticipating the 2023 Ballon d’Or awards ceremony scheduled for October 30 in Paris, the football community is abuzz with excitement. The Ballon d’Or is a prestigious award ceremony that recognizes the world’s best footballers, and this year’s edition promises to be nothing short of spectacular. With the 2022 winner, Karim Benzema, poised to hand over the coveted Golden Ball, football fans worldwide are eager to see who will succeed the Al-Ittihad striker.


This year’s Ballon d’Or ceremony holds particular significance as it follows the 2022 FIFA World Cup, a tournament that was scheduled amidst the 2022–23 football season. The tournament in Qatar undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the football landscape, and the performances of certain players on the grandest stage has certainly enhanced their chances of securing the Golden Ball.


In this edition, Nigeria made history by becoming the first African nation to have nominees in both the male and female categories. Asisat Oshoala and Victor Osimhen, were nominated for the award.


Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit the Nigerians who have earned Ballon d’Or nominations over the years, paving the way for Oshoala and Osimhen.


Finidi George – 1995


The former Real Betis winger made waves in 1995 when he earned a Ballon d’Or nomination. His performances with Ajax, including their UEFA Champions League triumph, placed him in the spotlight.


Daniel Amokachi – 1995


Joining Finidi George in the list of nominees in 1995 was Daniel Amokachi, who had a memorable season with Premier League side Everton. His leadership led the Toffees to an FA Cup triumph.


Austin Jay-Jay Okocha – 1995


Another Nigerian luminary who earned a Ballon d’Or nomination in 1995 was the dazzling Austin Jay-Jay Okocha. He showcased his brilliance while playing for Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Bundesliga.



Nwankwo Kanu – 1996 and 1999


Nwankwo Kanu holds the distinction of being the first Nigerian to earn two Ballon d’Or nominations. The former Arsenal and Ajax star was nominated in 1996 and 1999. His role in leading the Dream Team to gold at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics stands as a testament to his footballing prowess. Kanu remains the highest-ranked Nigerian in the history of the Ballon d’Or.


Victor Ikpeba – 1997


The ‘Prince of Monaco,’ Victor Ikpeba, entered the Ballon d’Or nominee list in 1997, a year when he was also crowned African Footballer of the Year. His sterling performances for Monaco in the French Ligue 1, where he scored prolifically, were duly recognized.


Sunday Oliseh – 1998


In 1998, former Juventus midfielder Sunday Oliseh earned a Ballon d’Or nomination. His outstanding season with Ajax Amsterdam in the Eredivisie and his contributions to the Super Eagles at the FIFA World Cup in France were highly regarded, despite not receiving any votes.


Asisat Oshoala – 2022 and 2023


Super Falcons forward, Asisat Oshoala, has been nominated for the Ballon d’Or twice. Her first nomination came in 2022, and she added another to her collection in 2023. Oshoala enjoyed a phenomenal season with Barcelona, securing a treble and leading the Super Falcons to the round of 16 in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.


Victor Osimhen – 2023


Joining the esteemed ranks of Ballon d’Or nominees is Victor Osimhen. His remarkable season with Italian Serie A side Napoli last season, in which he scored 26 goals to secure the Serie A title, has justified his inclusion in the list of nominees. Osimhen also added five goals in the UEFA Champions League, propelling Napoli to the quarter-finals for the first time in 33 years.



As the 2023 Ballon d’Or ceremony approaches, the world watches with bated breath to see if a Nigerian footballer can make history by claiming this prestigious award. With a legacy of exceptional players and nominees like these, Nigerian football continues to shine on the global stage.


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