Celestine Babayaro

Celestine Hycieth Babayaro (born 29 August 1978) is a Nigerian former footballer who played as a defender or as a midfielder.

Celestine Babayaro
Chelsea Legends 1 Inter Forever 4 (42278924192) (cropped).jpg
Babayaro in 2018
Personal information
Full name Celestine Hycieth Babayaro[1]
Date of birth (1978-08-29) 29 August 1978 (age 41)[2]
Place of birth Kaduna, Nigeria
Height 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)
Playing position(s) Left-back
Youth career
1994 Plateau United
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1994–1997 Anderlecht 75 (8)
1997–2005 Chelsea 132 (5)
2005–2008 Newcastle United 47 (0)
2008 LA Galaxy 0 (0)
Total 254 (13)
National team
1996–2000 Nigeria Olympic 7 (2)
1995–2004 Nigeria 27 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Babayaro spent the majority of his career playing in the Premier League, mainly for Chelsea from 1997 to 2005, and then later for Newcastle United, from 2005 to 2008. He had a brief stint at MLS club LA Galaxy, but never officially played for the club, and was a free agent, before retiring in 2010.

Babayaro represented the Nigerian national football team from 1995 to 2004, and was part of two Olympic squads, two World Cup squads and three African Cup of Nations squads.

Club careerEdit

Early careerEdit

Born in Kaduna,[2] Babayaro began his playing career at Nigerian side Plateau United, before moving to Belgian club Anderlecht in 1994, and eventually would make a name for himself, quickly gaining first-choice status although still a teenager. Babayaro set records as the youngest player to make an appearance and to receive a red card in the UEFA Champions League. He was sent off in a match against Steaua Bucuresti in a 1–1 draw, aged 16 years and 86 days.


Babayaro was signed by Chelsea after being spotted by scout Lewis Durkin in April 1997. He moved for a transfer fee of £2.25 million,[3] a club record paid for a teenager at the time.[citation needed] He made his debut in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup against Slovan Bratislava,[4] but an injury sustained in the 6–1 win over rivals Tottenham Hotspur in December 1997[5] ruled him out for the rest of the season. This meant he missed their victories in the 1998 Football League Cup Final and the 1998 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final. However, with Chelsea he went on to win the 1998 UEFA Super Cup, the FA Cup[6] and Charity Shield in 2000,[7] and reached the 2002 FA Cup Final.[8] He was also instrumental in Chelsea's memorable run in the 1999-2000 UEFA Champions League. It was to end in heartbreak for Babayaro as he was sent off in extra time against Barcelona, as they bowed out of the competition at the quarter final stage.[9] He faced competition from Graeme Le Saux during his seven-year spell, but managed to play over 200 games for the London side. His acrobatic celebrations with backflips were noted and loved by the fans of the club.

The steady form of Wayne Bridge saw Babayaro start only four FA Premier League matches for Chelsea in 2004–05 under new manager José Mourinho. Chelsea ended the season as Premier League champions.

Newcastle UnitedEdit

In January 2005, he left Chelsea to join Newcastle United on an undisclosed fee,[10] where he established himself as first choice left back. He scored his first and what turned out to be his only Newcastle goal in a 3–1 win over Coventry City in the FA Cup.[11]

In September 2006, Babayaro was given a three-match ban by The Football Association for slapping Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt in the face,[12] while Liverpool took a corner. The slap was not seen by the referee Mark Halsey, but later footage showed Babayaro punch the Dutchman in the face. Babayaro accepted the allegations and apologised to Kuyt.

On 10 February 2007, after a 2–1 win over Liverpool, then-Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder revealed that just 12 hours before kick-off, Babayaro had called him saying his younger brother David had died from tuberculosis. Despite this, Babayaro insisted he would still play and put in a solid performance which earned him praise from Roeder and the fans. This fine form continued into United's 3–1 away victory against Zulte Waregem, in the UEFA Cup.[13]

Due to his many injury problems it was mutually decided, on 10 December 2007, that Babayaro should be released from his contract with immediate effect and a compensation figure was agreed.[14]

In January 2009, former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd described Babayaro as a "disgrace" who "didn't pull his weight" during a televised BBC interview.[15]

Later careerEdit

On 21 January 2008, 29-year-old Babayaro came to an agreement with the LA Galaxy to join them on a three-year contract, effective immediately.[16]

With this move, the Nigerian re-joined Galaxy coach Ruud Gullit who previously brought him to Chelsea in 1997 and spent a season coaching him there. This time again, it was the recently hired Gullit who wanted Babayaro at his new club. However, it did not take long for the move to turn sour. Thinking that he had arrived at sort of an American superclub that only a year earlier gave David Beckham what was widely reported to be the $250 million contract, Babayaro was agitated by what he considered to be "shabby" accommodations – from having to fly in the economy class to sharing a hotel room on the road.[17] His lack of commitment in training and preseason games reflected those feelings and he soon got on Gullit's and club president and general manager Alexi Lalas's bad side.

On 3 March, Babayaro was waived by the Galaxy after playing only 45 minutes in a preseason friendly against FC Seoul, receiving a yellow card and conceding a penalty in the process. The reason for this unexpected release was not stated explicitly by Galaxy front office. "After a period of evaluation, it was decided that it would be in the best interest of the club and the player to part ways,” Lalas said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that it did not work out, but Ruud and our technical staff are hard at work putting together this team and difficult decisions have to be made."[18]

During pre-season for the 2008–09 English league season, Babayaro trained with Premier League club Portsmouth at the invitation of manager Harry Redknapp with a view to signing for the FA Cup holders.[19] On 14 August 2008 Redknapp revealed that he would not offer Babayaro a contract at Fratton Park.[20]

On 8 July 2010, Babayaro officially announced his retirement from football.[21]

International careerEdit

After being part of the victorious Nigerian team at the Under-17 World Championships in 1993, Babayaro made his international senior debut in the Afro-Asian Cup of Nations in 1995, against Uzbekistan. The following year, he was part of the Nigeria Olympic gold medal winning team at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, making the tournament's all-star team. He scored in the Gold Medal game itself against Argentina. After getting a knee injury in December 1997 in the Premier League, Babayaro recovered just in time to make the France 98 squad. He was also Nigeria's captain at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, and took part in the Korea/Japan 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Babayaro was part of Nigeria's squad for the 2004 African Nations Cup in Tunisia, but was controversially sent home, alongside Yakubu and Victor Agali for indiscipline. Although never officially announcing his retirement from international football, his final appearance from the national team was against Morocco in a group stage match.

Personal lifeEdit

Babayaro's brother, Emmanuel, a goalkeeper, was also part of Nigeria's 1996 Olympics gold medal winning team.[22]

Babayaro was acquitted of indecent assault in 1999.[23] He later sued the Daily Star for a headline suggesting he had been charged with rape and won an apology and damages.[24] He was declared bankrupt in 2011.[25]

Career statisticsEdit



Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Belgium League Belgian Cup League Cup Europe Total
1994–95 Anderlecht First Division 22 0
1995–96 28 5
1996–97 25 3
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
1997–98 Chelsea Premier League 8 0 0 0 2 0 3 0 13 0
1998–99 28 3 5 0 3 0 7 1 44 4
1999–2000 25 0 1 0 0 0 15 2 41 2
2000–01 24 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 28 0
2001–02 18 0 4 0 4 0 2 0 28 0
2002–03 19 1 3 0 2 0 0 0 24 1
2003–04 6 1 2 0 3 0 3 0 14 1
2004–05 4 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 5 0
2004–05 Newcastle United Premier League 7 0
2005–06 28 0
2006–07 12 0
2007–08 0 0
United States League Open Cup League Cup North America Total
2008 Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer 0 0
Country Belgium 75 8
England 179 5
United States 0 0
Total 254 13

Statistics include 2 Charity Shield appearances in 1998 and 2000.


Nigeria national team
Year Apps Goals
1995 1 0
1996 1 0
1997 4 0
1998 5 0
1999 2 0
2000 7 0
2001 2 0
2002 4 0
2003 0 0
2004 1 0
Total 27 0






Nigeria U17

Nigeria U23



  1. ^ "No. 59669". The London Gazette. 12 January 2011. p. 383.
  2. ^ a b "Celestine Babayaro". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  3. ^ Staniforth, Tommy (22 April 1997). "Babayaro to join Bridge foreign legion". The Independent. Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  4. ^ "Slovan Bratislava 0 Chelsea 2 (Agg 0–4)". Sporting Life. 2 October 1997. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  5. ^ "Tottenham's revival hopes threatened by Venglos factor". The Independent. 8 December 1997. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  6. ^ "Chelsea claim FA Cup glory". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 20 May 2000. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  7. ^ "Keane sees red as Chelsea triumph". BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Corporation. 13 August 2000. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  8. ^ "Arsenal lift FA Cup". BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Corporation. 16 February 2003. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  9. ^ "Chelsea's European dream shattered". BBC. 18 April 2000. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  10. ^ "Newcastle to unveil Babayaro". BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Corporation. 30 December 2004. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  11. ^ "Newcastle 3–1 Coventry". BBC. 29 January 2005. Retrieved 6 November 2009.
  12. ^ "Babayaro hit with three-match ban". BBC Sport. British Broadcasting Corporation. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  13. ^ "Brave Baba's secret sorrow". Nufc.premiumtv.co.uk. Archived from the original on 6 April 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  14. ^ "Bye Bye Babayaro". Chroniclelive.co.uk.
  15. ^ "Shepherd regrets over missed opportunity". BBC News. 28 January 2009. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  16. ^ Idaho, Duncan (21 January 2008). "MLS Soccer News – Transfers | Trades | Signings | Rumors: Babayaro to LA Galaxy". Mlssoccernews.blogspot.com.
  17. ^ The Beckham Experiment, Grant Wahl, Three Rivers Press (paperback edition), New York, Pp.177–178
  18. ^ "Babayaro doesn't last with Galaxy". Los Angeles Times. 2008. Archived from the original on 12 March 2008. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  19. ^ "New Season, Same Hunger". 2008. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012.
  20. ^ "Babayaro a no go but Jordi has a chance". 2008.
  21. ^ "Nigeria: Babayaro Quits Professional Football". Daily Champion (Lagos). 8 July 2010. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Migration: Der Doppelpass des Nigerianers". Spiegel.de. 14 August 2000.
  23. ^ "Footballer cleared of indecent assault". BBC News. BBC. 2 August 1999. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  24. ^ "BABAYARO WINS LIBEL CASE". Sky Sports. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  25. ^ "The Gazette: Official Public Record". 12 January 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  26. ^ "Celestine Babayaro". National Football Teams. Benjamin Strack-Zimmerman.
  27. ^ "Players Appearances Ba-Bd". Bounder.friardale.co.uk.

External linksEdit