Born 1955 in Nigeria, Benjamin Odeje is recognized as the first Black footballer to represent England at any level of competition. This distinction was originally held by Laurie Cunningham. Odeje arrived in England very early in life and settled in London where his mother was a nurse.
Young Benjamin Odeje took to soccer very early and was selected for the England Schoolboys team in early 1971. The team was scheduled to play against North Ireland but his father expressed concern about Odeje’s selection to the team. It was in the distinction of being the first African to play for England that had him worried, feeling that his son would be a target for other players. As it would turn out, he would help England to a 1-0 win while playing in the right wing position. For most of his youth career, he played as a center forward.
Benjamin Odeje was a prolific scorer at the schools level having scored close to 400 goals across three seasons of play. He would go on to play for Charlton Athletic’s youth team, competing in France later in 1971. His performance and a clean goal would advance the team to the FA Youth Cup in the 1972-1973 season. After finishing at the youth level, Odeje would play for a number of local area clubs in London. Oddly enough, he never went to pro level’s upper tiers considering his skill.
Currently, Benjamin Odeje trains children in soccer and has spent time as a coach for the Queens Park Rangers.