Nigeria’s late soccer legend Tesilimi Olawale Balogun left a profound impression on those who saw him play as well as coach. Nicknamed Thunder for his thunderous shots, he played at both local and international levels as a striker before becoming Africa’s first qualified professional football coach.
Balogun played for teams including Pan Bank Team, Dynamos Club, SCOA XI, Apapa Bombers, Marine Athletics, UAC XI, Railways XI and Jos XI winning the Challenge Cup five times in seven finals.
He was also the first player to have a hat-trick in the competition in Pan Bank’s 6-1 bashing of Warri Eleven in 1953. He featured for Marine FC in the 1947 edition of the Challenge Cup, Lagos Railways in 1949, Lagos PAN Bank in 1952 and Ibadan Lions in 1959 and 1961. He was part of the Nigerian side that toured the United Kingdom in 1949.
After originally touring with a Nigerian select team in 1949, Balogun returned to the UK in August 1955 to sign with Peterborough United. However, Balogun never made a league appearance for Peterborough and spent time with Skegness Town before signing with Queens Park Rangers, scoring three goals in 13 appearances in the Football League during the 1956–57 season.
After leaving QPR, Balogun returned to non-League football, playing with Holbeach United. Balogun was a member of the Nigerian national side for 12 years. He was Nigeria’s coach at the 1968 Olympics Games held in Mexico.
The Teslim Balogun Stadium in the Nigerian city of Lagos is named in his honor. The Teslim Balogun Foundation was founded after his death to assist the families of Nigerian ex-international footballers who may have fallen on hard times.
Balogun died in his sleep on July 30, 1972, aged 45. He was survived by eight children.