Association football player
1 March 1979, Ibadan, Nigeria
Samuel Gbenga Okunowo (born 1 March 1979) is a Nigerian retired footballer who played mainly as a right back.
Injury affected the vast majority of his professional career, which was spent in eight different countries other than his own.
Born in Ibadan, Okunowo signed with La Liga club FC Barcelona at only 18. In the 1998–99 season he competed for the starting spot in the first team with Michael Reiziger, and managed 21 appearances all competitions comprised (15 starts) as the Catalans went on to win the national championship.
However, Okunowo did not manage to remain with Barça, going on to serve two unassuming loans, with Portugal’s S.L. Benfica and Spanish second division club CD Badajoz and being released in June 2002. He went on to represent – with very little impact as well – teams in four different countries: Greece, Romania, Albania and Ukraine.
In 2007, Okunowo was on trial at Northwich Victoria of the Conference National and Vilanova del Camí in the Spanish amateur leagues, but nothing came of it. Two years later, he returned to active with VB Sports Club in the Maldives; in October 2009, however, he joined England’s Waltham Forest, playing in a league eight levels below the Premier League.
In February 2010, Okunowo underwent a trial with Polish Ekstraklasa side Odra Wodzislaw, in an attempt to return to top flight football, but nothing materialized. He also met the same fate whilst looking for a club in Norway.
On 5 January 2012, Okunowo returned to his homeland and signed with Sunshine Stars F.C. for one Nigerian Premier League campaign. He retired the following year, aged 34.
Okunowo represented Nigeria at the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship (helping the hosts reach the quarter-finals), the 2000 African Cup of Nations and the 2000 Summer Olympics, winning eight caps with the senior team.
In July 2012, Okunowo lost all his possessions when a fire broke in his mansion in Ibadan. He subsequently reached out for help from former club Barcelona, which obliged.