Tijjani Babangida (September 25, 1973) was a fast-paced Nigerian right winger who was best known as a smiling dribbler for VVV, Roda JC and Ajax.
Textile magnate Nol Hendriks noticed the talents of the little Nigerian early on. He picked up 'Baba' from Nigeria at the age of 17 and stored him at VVV. Initially, Babangida had a hard time exchanging the metropolis of Lagos for the quiet Limburg landscape, but it did not take him long to steal the hearts of the fans in De Koel. Venlo could not enjoy their Nigerian crowd favorite for very long. In 1993 he left for Roda JC.
During his stay in Kerkrade, Tijjani Babangida had good times. In a dream team with Maurice Graef, Max Huiberts, Eric vd Luer, Barry van Galen and Ruud Hesp, the Koempels invariably ended in the left row. The absolute highlight was of course the second place in 1995 behind the unbeatable Ajax.Babangida turned out to be a dangerous right winger who relegated many left back to extras.
In 1996 it was time to step to the top. Ajax coach Louis van Gaal brought Babangida to Amsterdam to succeed fellow countryman Finidi George, who left for Real Betis. Baba would still play regularly in the first seasons, but Morten Olsen, Louis van Gaal's successor, did not see it in him after that and invariably put the little right winger on the bench.
The real smile would not return to Babangida after that. He played at various clubs abroad, and also in the Netherlands at Vitesse. But the times when the opponent feared him before the game were definitely over.
In 2005 it was enough for Baba. After a career of almost fifteen years, he ended his professional football career. He has played 40 caps for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, was a national selection player in three world championships and was part of the Nigerian squad that won gold at the 1996 Olympics.
(Photo: ANP – Marcel Antonisse)