Meet The Midfield Maestro Who Was Dropped From The World Cup Squad For Disciplinary Reasons


When it comes to playing at the FIFA World Cup, a tournament that showcases the crème de la crème at international stage, every country needs its best players as long as they are fit.

Can you imagine Portugal going to the 2022 World Cup without Cristiano Ronaldo?

However, 19 years ago, Nigeria didn't think twice before doing that.

Sunday Oliseh, Borussia Dortmund talismanic midfielder was dropped from the 2002 FIFA World Cup squad by Coach Festus Onigbinde as the team began preparations for the prestigious FIFA tournament.

Early Life

On September 14, 1974, a baby boy was born in Abavo, Delta State, Nigeria.

He took to football at a very early age but his father never showed keen interest in his footballing skills. Rather he preferred his son to go to school. 

The young Sunny spent some years of his life developing his physicality, technical prowess and mental ability.

This decision to stay focused to his craft soon paid off beyond his wildest dreams as he joined RFC Liege at the age of 15.

Something spread around like wild fire about the teenager dominating opposition midfield during matches.

He became an established player in the Liege side, earning himself 75 competitive appearances and scoring 3 goals.

Going To Reggiana

News of Sunday Oliseh, the shining starlet playing for RFC Liege in Belgium, soon filtered into Europe in his fourth year at the club.

Scouts from different Serie A clubs poured into Nigerian to watch the young sensation play with the aim of getting him to sign for their clubs.

After a protracted tussle and Oliseh having the final say over his choice of destination, he settled for Reggiana in 1994.

Life in Reggiana

While one would expect him to have challenges settling into the Italian style of play, the young midfielder settled into life in Italy easily and established himself as an integral part of the Reggiana club.

Playing regular football back in Belgium had moulded Oliseh into an experienced professional. This was why he was able to quickly settle into life in Italian football.

National Team

Sunday Oliseh was invited for the 1993 CAF U20 Cup of Nations but he couldn't make it due to club engagement.

He made his senior debut for Nigeria in 1993.

Welcome to Germany

After one season, he was on the move again, this time to Cologne. Oliseh spent two seasons at the club.

Viva Ajax!

In the summer of 1996, Ajax Amsterdam signed the charismatic footballer.

The Ajax Engine House

Oliseh orchestrated the Ajax midfield effortlessly.

He became the lord and master of the Ajax Amsterdam midfield with his demeanour, accurate tackling, thunderous efforts, controlled passes and a great vision for breaking down opposition attack attempts.

Unfruitful return to Italy

Oliseh was on the move again, this time to Italy where he joined Juventus. He didn't play much games because of his involvements in national team assignments.

Redemption at Dortmund

The Delta born enforcer joined Borussia Dortmund in 2000 and enjoyed some good time with the German club.

The World Cup Omission

Despite captaining Nigeria during the 2002 African Cup of Nations, Oliseh was omitted from Nigeria's World Cup squad for disciplinary reasons. He demanded unpaid allowances and dues owed the Super Eagles.

International Caps

Oliseh played 63 international matches and scored three goals for Nigeria, and played at the Football World Cups of 1994 and 1998. Oliseh also participated in the Olympic gold medal winning team of 1996.

Sending a legendary keeper to retirement

He is mostly remembered for scoring the winning goal in the group stage match against Spain in the 1998 World Cup, as Nigeria prevailed 3-2. A throw-in deep in the Spanish half was headed clear by Fernando Hierro - Oliseh ran and fired an explosive shot from 25 yards and took Spanish goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta completely by surprise. The goal sent Zubizaretta to retirement after France 1998.


Sunday Oliseh won some interesting titles as a footballer.

He picked two KNVB titles and Dutch Eredivisie.

The enforcer was a UEFA Intertoto Cup winner and also recorded success in the Bundesliga.

At the international level, he won the African Cup of Nations, Olympic Gold Medal and Afro Asian Cup.

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