Africa Obafemi Martins : Biography

Obafemi Martins was born in Nigeria, in Lagos, on October 28, 1984.

The beginning of his career was quite interesting. A talented young man was scouted by the coach of the local club Ebedei, while he was knocking a ball around the street. That’s how Obafemi entered his first club. Within a year of training ground, the gifted player was caught into sight of European scouts. After some preliminary tests a contract with Reggiana was penned.

Obafemi became famous quite quickly, as in agility and skill he had few equals. So there’s no wonder that very soon he played for the Italian club Inter Milan. As a member of ‘Black-and-Blue’ team, Martins proved his worth by scoring 23 goals for the youth team of the club. In the following season, in December 2002, he made his debut for the first team playing in a match against Parma. Immediately after that, the first Champions League debut came and was marked by his first goal in Europe. Obafemi gained success with Inter, taking the pitch about 100 times and scoring 39 goals. During his career with Inter Obafemi won the Italian Cup and the Super Cup (twice each).

In 2006, English club Newcastle penned a deal with the striker. During Obafemi Martins spell on Newcastle, he amassed 35 goals and took the pitch in 104 games.

The next club to act for was Wolfsburg. At that time, his hopes to play in Champions League were ruined by the injury.

In 2012, Obafemi Martins went to Levante.

As part of the Nigerian squad, he won the bronze of 2006 African Cup of Nations.

Early career

Martins joined the local football club F.C. Ebedei, having been scouted by manager Churchill Oliseh while playing on the streets of his hometown. After a year with the club, Italian Serie C side A.C Reggiana made a move for the player. After a two-month trial, Martins and fellow Ebedei teammate Stephan Makinwa signed youth contracts with the club in 2000. His first season in Italy saw Martins break into the first team squad, and later in the year Seria A sides Perugia and Inter made offers for the forward.


A £ 750,000 transfer fee took Martins to Internazionale in 2001  and in his first season he scored 23 goals for the youth team, helping them to the Italian Under-18 title. His form for the youth side led to his first-team league debut the following season, in a match against Parma in December 2002. He didn’t become a regular member of the first team squad until the 2002–03 season. He played in his first UEFA Champions League match that season, and came on as a substitute against his future employers, Newcastle United, at St James’Park. He scored his first Champions League goal in a match against Bayer 04 Leverkusen to secure Inter’s place in the quarter finals; footage of his celebratory somersaults were subsequently used by UEFA to advertise the following season’s competition. He scored again in the semi-final match against Inter’s arch-rivals AC Milan, but couldn’t prevent the club losing out on away goals to the competition’s eventual winners. He ended the season with one league goal in four game.

Martins signed a long-term contract with Inter Milan in 2005 which ran until 2010 and was worth around €2.5 million annually. His good form for Inter continued and he was called to play in the 2006 Africa Cup Nations for Nigeria.

Although he had some success with Inter, scoring 28 goals for the club in 88 league games as well as 11 goals in European competitions, he was sold in August 2006. This was due to Inter bringing in two new strikers; first Argentinian Herman Crespo was brought in on loan from Chelsea and then the Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovicwas bought by Inter from Juventus.

Newcastle United

Martins warming up before a match

With Martins handing in a transfer request in August 2006, English Premier League club Newcastle United completed a deal with Inter for the striker on 24 August 2006 for €15 million, with Martins signing a five-year deal. He was paraded in front of the Geordie fans before their UEFA cup tie against FK Ventspils, and inherited the club’s cherished number 9 shirt, vacated after the retirement of the club-record goalscorer Alan Shearer in April.

Martins made his debut on 27 August, in the 2–0 defeat to Aston Villa, in which he was stretchered off with a knee injury. It turned out that Martins suffered a severe dead leg and internal bleeding. His unremarkable first few appearances for Newcastle caused manager Glenn Roeder to speak out in his defence.

Martins with former teammate Nicky Butt in 2007

However, on 17 September, Martins scored his first goal at the Gallowgate End for Newcastle. It was the second goal in a 2–0 victory over West Ham United at Upton Park, and from there his goalscoring form began to improve steadily.

Reports in January 2007 suggested that Chelsea were considering making an offer for Martins’ services after his impressive form. These reports were later rubbished by Martins himself, and Roeder stated that although he was interested in signing a Chelsea player, he would not allow Martins to leave Newcastle.

On 14 January, in a 2–3 away win against Tottenham Hotspur, Martins’ 20-yard shot rocketed into the net. This strike was clocked by Sky Sports at a speed of 84 mph (135 km/h), making it unofficially the ninth hardest shot ever recorded in football according to the Guardian website. This was his tenth goal for Newcastle. Martins ended his first season on Tyneside with 17 goals in 46 games.

His second season was somewhat mixed. With new manager Sam Allardyce preferring to play Michael Owen and Mark Viduka up front, Martins found himself being used as an impact substitute for the first half of the season. Despite this he managed to score consistently, and when Allardyce was sacked and Kevin Keegan was appointed, Martins found himself being used as part of a three pronged attack along with Owen and Viduka. Martins scored less goals in his second season with Newcastle, mainly due to him no longer being the focal point of all their attacks as he was in his first season with them, as well as his season being interrupted with the African Cup of Nations participation with Nigeria in December.

Martins scored six goals in 12 league games during the first half of the 2008–09 season before a torn hamstring ruled him out for several games. It was confirmed on 7 January 2009, that Martins would undergo hernia surgery in Germany the next Monday. He was operated on by renowned specialist Dr. Ulrike Muschaweck. He did make it back in time for the last two games of the season, scoring in a relegation six-pointer derby against Middlesbrough. However, he could not stop Newcastle being relegated to the Championship. He initially reiterated his desire to stay and help the club return to the Premier League for the 2009–10 season, but he eventually left for VfL Wolfsburg. His last game was on a preseason friendly against Leyton Orient, which Newcastle lost 6–1.

During his three-year spell on Tyneside, Martins amassed 35 goals in all competitions from 104 games.

VfL Wolfsburg

On 29 July 2009, Newcastle accepted a £9 million bid from Bundesliga champions VfL Wolfsburg, the transfer was confirmed on 31 July with Martins signing a four-year contract. For his debut, Martins came on as a second half substitute against 1. FC Köln at the Rhein Energie Stadion, with his team deadlocked at 1–1. He helped in the buildup to the second goal and capped off his first appearance in the Bundesliga with a well-taken goal after dribbling past two onrushing defenders and then coolly finishing from six yards out, slotting the ball past the goalkeeper to the far post.

Rubin Kazan

On 9 July 2010, Martins was sold for a reported €17 million to reigning Russian Premier League champions Rubin Kazan. He signed a three-year contract and told BBC Sport:

“I am joining a team of champions and I hope to bring my best to the club to make them even greater.”

Martins’ agent, Nicola Walter, revealed that Rubin met all of the player’s requirements and that manager Kurban Berdyev had a “massive role” for him to play, following the departure of striker Aleksandr Bukharov. Martins was able to make his debut with Rubin after 1 August, when the transfer window was opened. On 9 May 2012, Rubin Kazan won the Russian Cup giving Martins his first trophy in Russia.

Loan to Birmingham City

Martins celebrating after the 2011 Football League Cup Final

Following the birth of his child, Martins requested a move to England to be nearer to his family. On 31 January 2011, he joined Premier League club Birmingham City on loan until the end of the season, with the option of a £5 million permanent deal in the summer of 2011. He made his debut, which had been delayed by the formalities of obtaining a working visa, in the starting eleven against Stoke City on 12 February; he played for 75 minutes as Birmingham won 1–0. He scored his first goal for the club, 17 minutes into the FA Cup fifth-round defeat of Sheffield Wednesday, after a strong run.

Martins scored the winning goal in the 2011 Football League Cup Final as Birmingham beat Arsenal 2–1 at Wembley Stadium, having been brought on as an 83rd-minute substitute. With one minute remaining in normal time, there was a moment of confusion between Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny and defender Laurent Koscielny as they attempted to deal with a headed knock down from Birmingham’s Nikola Žigić. Martins passed the resulting loose ball into the empty net from near the penalty spot. Martins described it as “the easiest goal I’ve ever scored in my career”. After two more Premier League appearances, he spent several weeks out with an injury eventually diagnosed as a stress fracture of the left tibia. After surgery in late April, he faced a recovery period estimated at three to four months.


On 13 September 2012, Martins moved to Levante on a free transfer, signing a two-year contract. He made his league debut on 23 September 2012, where he scored his first goal, and the winning goal, in a 2–1 home win against Real Sociedad. Martins scored a brace for Levante in their 3–1 home victory over Granada on 28 October, sending his side into fourth place in the La Liga standings.

International career

Martins has scored seventeen goals in 32 appearances for Nigeria. He was a part of the Nigerian team that finished third in the 2006 African Cup of Nations. Martins scored two goals in the competition, both coming against Senegal in the first round.

His future for the national team has been placed in doubt on numerous occasions after separate incidents of controversy. In August 2006, the Nigerian FA (NFA) website had his date of birth down as 1 May 1978, which would have made him 28 years of age rather than 21. The NFA soon confirmed that it had been an administrative error and apologised for the confusion it had caused. However Martins threatened to quit playing for the national team after the blunder had initially put his move to Newcastle in doubt.

On 6 February 2007, Martins failed to turn up for the 4–1 friendly defeat against Ghana, despite being ordered to play. He later explained his absence was due to the fact he had travelled to Lagos in order to visit his sick mother. The Nigerian caretaker coach Augustine Eguavoen was furious with Martins and threatened to ban him from the national team. On 14 February 2007, Martins apologised for missing the game but said he believed his mother’s health was more important. He also said that he would be available to play for Nigeria in the future. He made his return to the national side on 24 March 2007, playing the full match against Uganda in an African Cup of Nations Qualifying match and won.

Following the end of Nigeria’s 2008 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign, Nigeria faced Mexico in Ciudad Juárez for a friendly match. Martins scored two goals in a 2–2 draw.

On 17 November 2007, Martins captained Nigeria for the first time, in a friendly match against Australia for his 19th appearance. On 12 November 2009 he scored a spectacular goal in the 83rd minute against Kenya in Nairobi, thus ensuring Nigeria’s qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. At the finals in South Africa, Martins played in just two games for a total of 71 minutes, without scoring. In the first group game, he came on as a 52nd minute substitute for Victor Obinna. In the third game he was used as a 57th minute substitute for Nwankwo Kanu. Nigeria exited the tournament bottom of Group B with only one point.

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