Babayaro in 2008
|Full name||Celestine Hycieth Babayaro|
|Date of birth||29 August 1978|
|Place of birth||Kaduna, Nigeria|
|Height||1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)|
|2008||Los Angeles Galaxy||0||(0)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
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 between Steaua Bucuresti and his club Anderlecht (1–1), aged 16 years and 86 days. Celestine is widely regarded as the best Nigerian full back ever to have lived alongside Taribo West.
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, a club record paid for a teenager at the time. He made his debut in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup against Slovan Bratislava, but an injury sustained in the 6-1 win over rivals Tottenham Hotspur in December 1997 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 and Charity Shield in 2000, and reached the 2002 FA Cup Final. He was also instrumental in Chelsea's memorable run in the 1999-2000 UEFA Champions League. However 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. 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.
In January 2005, he left Chelsea to join Newcastle United on an undisclosed fee, 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.
In September 2006, Babayaro was given a three-match ban by The Football Association for slapping Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt in the face, 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 Newcastle manager and fans. This fine form continued into United's 3–1 away victory against Zulte Waregem, in the UEFA Cup.
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.
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 precisely 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. 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."
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. On 14 August 2008 Redknapp revealed that he would not offer Babayaro a contract at Fratton Park.
On 8 July 2010, Babayaro officially announced his retirement from football.
After being part of the victorious Nigerian team at the Under-17 World Championships in Japan (1993), Babayaro made his international senior debut in the Afro-Asian Championship in 1995, against Uzbekistan. The following year he was part of the Nigeria Olympic gold medal winning team at the Atlanta 96 football event, 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 Aiyegbeni and Victor Agali for indiscipline. Although never officially announcing his retirement from international football, he has not played for the national team ever since.
Babayaro was acquitted of indecent assault in 1999. He later sued the Daily Star for a headline suggesting he had been charged with rape and won an apology and damages. He was declared bankrupt in 2011.
|Club performance||League||Cup||League Cup||Continental||Total|
|Belgium||League||Belgian Cup||League Cup||Europe||Total|
|England||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Europe||Total|
|2004–05||Newcastle United||Premier League||7||0|
|United States||League||Open Cup||League Cup||North America||Total|
|2008||Los Angeles Galaxy||Major League Soccer||0||0|
Statistics include 2 Charity Shield appearances in 1998 and 2000.
|Nigeria national team|
- Belgian Young Professional Footballer of the Year: 1994-95
- Belgian Young Professional Footballer of the Year: 1995-96
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- The Beckham Experiment, Grant Wahl, Three Rivers Press (paperback edition), New York, Pp.177–178
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- "New Season, Same Hunger". 2008. Archived from the original on 9 March 2012.
- "Babayaro a no go but Jordi has a chance". 2008.
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- "Footballer cleared of indecent assault". BBC News. BBC. 2 August 1999. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- "BABAYARO WINS LIBEL CASE". Sky Sports. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
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- Celestine Babayaro at Soccerbase