Striker Emmanuel Olisadebe, who helped Poland reach the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals, has retired from football at the age of 34 with a view to pursuing a career in coaching.
Born in Warri, Nigeria, Olisadebe's career took an unlikely turn when he left Jasper United for KSP Polonia Warszawa in 1997, with his title success in 1999/2000 prompting him to take Polish citizenship in July 2000. Drafted into the national team by coach Jerzy Engel, he was their eight-goal top scorer in 2002 World Cup qualifying, helping his side to reach the finals in South Korea/Japan.
"I am very grateful to Poland," Olisadebe told UEFA.com. "I started my proper career here, met my wife and played for the national team. I will never forget this beautiful experience. It was very, very important for the Polish people to reach the World Cup finals after a 16-year break. And although we were eliminated in the group stage, I have good memories. Playing in such great tournament was something special."
Olisadebe's 25 games for Poland included 11 goals, though there is little competition when it comes to picking his personal favourite. "Of course, it was the one against the United States in the World Cup finals," he said. "We won 3-1 and I opened the scoring at the very beginning. Now that I am living in Nigeria, I can see how much respect people have for those who played in World Cup finals and scored."
Success at Polonia earned Olisadebe a move to Panathinaikos FC in 2001, but after two decent seasons – crowned by another "favourite goal", in a 2-1 defeat by Arsenal FC at Highbury – a succession of knee injuries hampered his progress. Spells in China, Cyprus and at a number of other Greek clubs never quite saw him regain his early-career form, but 'Oli' is not bitter.
"If it weren't for the knee injuries, I could have done better, but I am still satisfied with what I achieved," he said. "I am a boy from Nigeria who went to do something in Europe and pulled it off. I have a lot of fantastic moments in my memory and nobody can take them away from me. Now I would like to become a coach – I plan to go to coaching school this year in Lagos. Who knows? Maybe one day I will come back to Poland as assistant coach."
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