It’s just five months into 2023 but several Nigerian sportsmen and women have already recorded landmark achievements in different sports and winning major laurels along the way. PUNCH Sports Extra brings you the top winners and performers
Victor Osimhen (Football)
Osimhen’s goals helped Napoli clinch the Italian Scudetto for the first time in 33 years last Thursday.
The striker scored the all-important goal that had taken 33 years to come that day against Udinese at the Dacia Arena, calmly guiding the ball home and sparking scenes of pandemonium among the 11,000 travelling supporters and a packed Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, who were watching history being made on big screens back in Naples.
The draw took Napoli to 80 points for the season, putting an unassailable 16-point gap between them and second-place Lazio with five games left. Osimhen and his teammates’ wild celebrations with the fans told the entire story of the over three decades wait for the coveted title.
On a personal note, he entered the history books as the third Nigerian to win the Scudetto after Obafemi Martins and Victor Nsofor, who both won it with Inter Milan in 2006 and 2009 respectively.
His goal against Udinese, his 22nd, also saw him overtake Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o as the African with the most goals in a single Serie A season.
He also broke Ballon d’Or winner George Weah’s record for most goals scored by an African in Serie A history after he scored his 47th goal against Fiorentina on Sunday.
Also, Osimhen’s 33rd minute strike in Napoli’s 2-0 win over Sassuolo in Serie A in February was his 100th senior career goal in 197 games.
That is better than Lionel Messi, who needed 210 games to score 100 goals, and Cristiano Ronaldo, whose 100th career goal came in his 301st career game.
His 19th league goal in a 2-0 win at Empoli made him the second-youngest player (at 24 years, 58 days) to score in eight consecutive Serie A games.
Chuba Akpom (Football)
Middlesbrough’s Nigerian striker Akpom has had a record-breaking season, scoring 29 goals across all competitions for Boro this season, with the 27-year-old named the Sky Bet Championship Player of The Season last month.
He also clinched two awards at Middlesbrough’s 2022/23 Player of The Year ceremony.
Akpom claimed the Player of The Year as voted for by fans, and Players’ Player of The Year at the award ceremony held at the Riverside Stadium.
It has been a remarkable campaign for the former Arsenal striker, who became the first Boro player to hit more than 20 league goals since 1989/90, as Michael Carrick’s side hunt for promotion to the Premier League.
Gift Orban (Football)
If there is any little-known Nigerian footballer who has stunned Nigerians back home with his form, it’s definitely Gent’s Orban, who is making a real name for himself.
The forward has an impressive 16 goals in just 18 appearances this season, including hat-tricks against Waregem in the domestic league and Basaksehir in the Europa Conference League.
Orban lit up the Belgian Jupiler League with his strikes following his arrival from Norwegian club Stabeak in January.
The 20-year-old striker, who averages a goal every 84 minutes, has set numerous records since arriving Belgium.
His hat-trick against Basaksehir is the fastest in a UEFA competition, scoring the three goals within just 205 seconds to help Gent beat the Turks 4-1 in the round of 16 of the Europa Conference League. The feat meant he broke the previous record of six minutes and 12 seconds held by Mohammed Salah in the Champions League.
Four days before that game, Orban had scored four times in a 6-2 win against Zulte Waregem in the Belgian Pro League.
Before his arrival to Belgium he won the Norwegian First Division’s top scorer and young Player of The Year awards last season.
Chukwueze has been in devastating form for Villarreal thís season since the arrival of manager Qique Setien.
The Nigerian has surpassed his best ever goal contribution in a season for the Yellow Submarines, notching 13 goals and making another 11.
His match-winning performance against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in April was a major setback in Los Blanco’s dreams of winning the LaLiga title.
Villarreal, currently fifth in LaLiga, are on course to qualify for the UEFA Europa League next season.
Israel Adesanya (MMA)
In April 2023, Adesanya pulled the chestnuts out of the fire after he reclaimed his UFC middleweight title from Alex Pereira in the main event of UFC 287 at the FTX Arena in Miami. It was sweet revenge for Adesanya, who had suffered a controversial points loss to Pereira in their first fight in November.
Pereira beat Adesanya three times, twice in kickboxing and twice by knockout. But in Miami last month, Adesanya returned the favour and got the albatross off from around his neck for good.
Adesanya finally got his revenge, knocking out his longtime rival Pereira at UFC 287 to reclaim the middleweight championship this past Saturday in Miami.
Asisat Oshoala (Football)
Oshoala, 28, was instrumental to Barcelona Femeni clinching a fourth consecutive Liga F title in the Spanish women’s topflight division this season.
Barcelona achieved the feat with four matches to spare, maintaining a strong record — a winning streak of 27 games and amassing a total of 81 points so far.
It was her 89th-minute goal against Sporting Huelva that helped Barcelona seal their title defence.
Barcelona have now won the Spanish Liga F for a record eight times.
The Nigerian striker, who scored 21 out of Barcelona’s 113 goals so far, has been an integral part of manager Jonatan Giráldez’s squad that are set to battle German outfit Wolfsburg in the Women’s Champions League final.
Oyinlomo Quadre (Tennis)
Fast-rising tennis star, Quadre, made history at the Florida International University, United States of America, winning two awards — the Player and Freshman of The Year honours at the university. The Nigerian teenager is unbeaten in her last 13 games for the Panthers, recording 15 wins and two losses. She also recorded 16 wins playing alongside Yasmine Kabbaj in the women’s doubles event.
Edem Offiong (Table Tennis)
Nigeria’s table tennis player, Edem Offiong, made history with her Italian club ASD Quattro Mori Cagliari on Sunday becoming the first Nigerian woman to win European Cup Women’s Table Tennis title. Offiong who is ranked 142nd in the world beat her opponent Maria Fazekas 3-1 (5-11, 10-12, 7-11, 7-11) in their second match after she had outclassed the Hungarian 3-0 (6-11, 6-11, 8-11) in the first match.
Juliet Ukah (MMA)
Police Corporal Ukah is the African Extreme Fighting Championship EFC Champion and the No.1 contender for the World EFC Female Straw Weight title belt.
On April 13, Ukah showed immense skill and style to defeat Crystal Van Wyk over three rounds in the EFC 102.
The judges awarded the fight to Ukah by unanimous decision, with scores of 30-26, 30-26, and 30-27 – to defeat the previously undefeated South African.
The following week, the fast-rising Nigerian MMA star continued her winning streak by defeating Clodia Vochung Shivabo of Cameroon April 22.
At over 5’7” with an arm reach of 69.7 inches, the 23-year-old tactfully dominates her opponents with swift and deadly long left jabs, restricting them from grappling and keeping them at a distance. In addition, Ukah leverages her intelligence and grappling skills to outmanoeuvre her opponents on the ground.