Taribo West: From Gangster to Pastor

taribo west nigeria

Player Profile: Taribo West

Date of Birth: 26/3/1974

Height: 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)

Position: Defender

National Team: Nigeria

International Caps: 42

International Goals: 0

Club Career

It’s not often that a footballer is remembered more for their hairstyles than their footballing ability, but not every player is Taribo West. His rise to the top is certainly not a common one, and his past is almost as colourful as the hairdos he sported on the pitch. After spending his youth running with gangs on the streets of Lagos, West was lucky enough to escape the street life and turn his attention to football.

The defender known for his tough tackling and no-nonsense style of play, first played youth football for Sharks FC in his hometown of Port Harcourt. But after progressing through the ranks, he was signed by Obanta United where he spent a full season before returning to his hometown club Sharks FC.

West would go on to spend a further two years in the Nigerian Premier League playing a season each for Enugu Rangers and Julius Berger. But after impressing scouts at the African Youth Championship in 1993, he was invited to trial with French club Auxerre.

A successful trial saw him sign for Auxerre in 1993, although, he didn’t make his competitive debut for the club until the following year. After impressing in pre-season, Taribo West finally broke into Auxerre’s first team in the 1994-95 season.

He performed well in his first season, but his second season with the club would be much more memorable. West helped Auxerre to a league and cup double, winning their first ever Ligue 1 title, as well as the 1996 Coupe de France. The Nigerian a mainstay in the A.J. Auxerre backline, alongside the likes of Laurent Blanc and Alain Goma.

West played one more season with Auxerre and was a key man in defence as the club progressed to the quarter final stage of the 1996-97 Champions League. His consistent form at Auxerre caught the attention of bigger clubs including Arsenal, Juventus, and Sevilla, and it wasn’t long before he was sold to high flying Inter Milan.

After signing a 4-year deal with the Nerazzurri, he appeared regularly in his first season in Serie A. The highlight of his first year at Inter was the UEFA Cup final against Lazio. West started the game but was given his but he was given his marching orders late in the second half. However, Internazionale held on to emerge champions, defeating Lazio 3-0.

The following season, the Nigerian defender featured 21 times for Inter Milan in a lacklustre season for the club, where they failed to qualify for European competitions. West failed to make a single appearance in the following season and was sold to city rivals AC Milan. Again, he struggled for game time and only made 4 appearances in his time with the Rossoneri.

In 2001, Taribo West was loaned to Derby County and made 18 appearances for the English club as he helped them avoid relegation from the Premier League. Unfortunately, Derby opted against renewing his contract citing the fact that West’s international commitments saw him miss too many games. While Derby were not against him turning out for his country, his high wages meant they couldn’t afford to keep a player who missed many matches while away on international duty.

After leaving England, Taribo West signed for 1. FC Kaiserslautern in Germany. However, 10 appearances later, West was on the move again as disagreements over his contract saw him leave 1. FC Kaiserslautern.

Next, he moved from Germany to Partizan Belgrade in an 18-month deal helping the team win the First League of Serbia & Montenegro in 2002-03. The next season, he although he played rarely in the league, he featured regularly for Partizan in the UEFA Champions League group stage. While his performances for the Belgrade club were commendable, they were few and far between as injuries limited his game time and after his contract ended, he left the club.

With injuries becoming an ongoing issue in his career, Taribo found it difficult to prove his fitness to clubs over the coming seasons. Whenever he did eventually sign for a club, he only ever made a handful of appearances or had his contract ended abruptly. During his last few years as a professional player, he played for Al-Arabi in Qatar, Plymouth Argyle in the English Championship, and Paykan in Iran, failing to establish himself in any of the teams.

Taribo West retired from football in 2007 having played for journeyman-like 13 teams. Despite the fact that his footballing career was disrupted by recurring injuries, particularly in the latter years, he did enjoy some success as a player.

West managed to win the French Ligue 1 and 2 Coup de France with Auxerre, the UEFA Cup with Inter Milan, and a league title in Serbia with Partizan Belgrade. While he was well known for his hard-tackling style of play, strength and stamina, he will inevitably be remembered for the flamboyant hairstyles he sported during his playing days.

International Career

Taribo West was one of the more popular Nigerian players during his playing days. He made a total of 42 caps for Nigeria in an international career that lasted 11 years. He made his debut in a friendly game against Sweden in 1994 after impressing for the country’s U-20 team. 2 years later, he played every minute as Nigeria triumphed against all odds to win the Gold Medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

He played in his first World Cup at France ‘98 and helped Nigeria finish top of a difficult group that included European giants Spain. Despite their strong performances in the group stage, West and the Super Eagles were eliminated by Denmark after a 4-1 loss in the second round.

West also featured in the 2000 African Cup of Nations where he played an important role in helping Nigeria to the final of the tournament. In the final against Cameroon, Nigeria showed a lot of character to come back from 2 goals down but went on to lose in a penalty shootout.

He featured in his second World Cup in 2002, in a tournament that saw Nigeria appear in the group of death alongside Argentina, England, and Sweden. As expected, Nigeria finished bottom of the group earning a just single point before bowing out of the tournament and West and his teammates copped a lot of flak for their country’s failures. However, the hard-tackling defender played on for a few more seasons before retiring from International football in 2005 after injuries prevented him from honouring further call ups.

Where is Taribo West now?

Since retiring from football, Taribo West became a devout Christian and founded his own church in Lagos. He spends most of his time holding religious programs across Nigeria and has come out to denounce his flamboyant lifestyle as a footballer. As part of his transformation, he went ahead and cut his trademark locks.

When he’s not pastoring a church, Taribo West appears as a pundit on local TV stations and has remained a vibrant voice in the country’s sporting activities in the years following his retirement.

Facts about Taribo West – Did You Know?

– Taribo West was once accused of falsifying his age by Žarko Zečević, the former general secretary of Partizan Belgrade. Zečević claimed that West was actually 12 years older than he made out, but West strongly denied the allegations and demanded an apology.

– He once revealed that he was exploited by Auxerre while signing his contract with the French team, citing his desperation to join a European club as his reason for not reading through the contract he was offered.

– West recently claimed that his time at AC Milan was cut short due to interference from the Mafia, who did not want to see him play ahead of club legends Paolo Maldini or Allesandro Costacurta.