by Wilfred Okiche
For the sixth consecutive year, YNaija brings you its annual ranking of the most powerful young persons under the age of 40 who are getting things done in the sporting world. From elite athletes to top flight footballers and sports administrators and these 10 fellows are doing the country proud.
At 22, Son of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Seni became the youngest person in the world to head a football club when he was named chairman of the Kwara state based national league side, ABS Ilorin Football Club. Saraki has moved to revamp the club, announcing a new management structure, signing up new players and unveiling a new logo. The club has inked a five-year partnership deal with global sports lifestyle brand, PUMA.
For many years, Uneku Atawodi was the only black woman in the world playing the sport of Polo professionally. These days, she is quite the business woman, running Bamboo House, a boutique hotel and lounge in Abuja. She also constructed the Bamboo Beach Polo Arena in Lagos to help bring Polo closer to the masses.
After a rocky stay at Manchester City where he launched his European career and won the league cup, Kelechi Iheanacho was signed by former Premier League champions, Leicester City on a five-year contract for a reported £25m fee, a record for a Nigerian player. The top money transfer fee paid by Leicester despite Iheanacho’s uneven run at Manchester City proves that much more is being expected of his talents.
When you are Lucy Ejike, it is hard to stop winning. The Paralympic powerlifter has represented Nigeria at five consecutive Paralympic Games from 2000 in Sydney through 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, winning medals at each outing. An elite athlete, Ejike made history when she shattered the Paralympic and world record three successive times before winning gold with a lift of 142kg at the Rio Games. Hows that for power?
Arsenal FC may be a punchline these days, thanks to an embarrassing string of losses and a chronic refusal to deliver at football’s highest levels, but Alex Iwobi continues to put in his best for the top flight team he committed to while in primary school. A nephew of football legend, JJ Okocha, Iwobi featured prominently in Arsenal’s 2016/17 run, earning FA Cup and Community Shield laurels with the team.
With middle names like Olaseni and Oluwafemi, the British can never really claim Anthony Joshua. Doesn’t matter how many laurels he wins flying the flag of Blighty, he remains as Nigerian as they come. A unified world heavyweight champion, Joshua holds the IBF title which he won in 2016, the WBA (Super) and IBO titles, earned in April 2017. Joshua also held the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles from 2015 to 2016.
Victor Moses plays wingback for Premier League champions, Chelsea FC where he signed on to in 2012. Since beginning his career with Crystal Palace, Moses has been on loan to Liverpool, Stoke City and West Ham United. He returned to Chelsea last season and was largely instrumental to the team’s Premier League victory. Moses is the Nigerian player with the most Premier League appearances for a title winning team
From playing in the streets of Jos, Plateau state, to leading the Super Eagles to strategic victories against Cameroun and sustaining an international career in Turkey, Ogenyi Onazi has definitely come a long way. Onazi has featured prominently for Nigeria and was part of the side that won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. Having been denied a work permit to join Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City side, Onazi plays for Trabzonspor in Turkey.
Kehinde Paul has won gold so many times, it is hard to keep up. A power-lifter and Olympic record holder, Paul totally dominated the -65kg category at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, winning the gold medal and adding to Nigeria’s impressive haul. Paul has won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, at the IPC Powerlifting Asian Open Championship in the Republic of Kazakhstan, at the 2015 Congo Brazzaville All African games and at the 2016 IPC Powerlifting World Cup Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A professional table tennis player, Aruna Quadri has represented Nigeria at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympic games, the latter of which he peaked at the quarter finals level. A former star player of the year according to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), Quadri defeated defending champion, Omar Assar of Egypt, in the men’s singles final at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Africa Cup in Agadir, Morrocco.