African All Stars

Wilfred Agbonavbare: La Liga and Adepoju remember late Rayo Vallecano great

12:39 WAT 27/01/2022
Nigeria huddle for prayers
The former Super Eagles goalkeeper passed away seven years ago after a long battle with cancer

La Liga and Mutiu Adepoju have paid tribute to Wilfred Agbonavbare who died on January 27, 2015.

The Rayo Vallecano great passed away at the age of 48 in a hospital in Spain after a long battle with cancer.

Thursday marks seven years after his passing and his former international and the Spanish elite division organisers have taken to social media to remember his legacy.

“5 October 1966 – 27 January 2015. Today marks seven years since the tragic passing of Rayo Vallecano cult hero Wilfred Agbonavbare. Rest in peace, 'Willy',” La Liga tweeted.

In the same vein, Adepoju – who played alongside the goalkeeper for Nigeria – posted a touching tribute on his Twitter handle.

“Gone but not forgotten. Continue to rest in peace my dear brother, Wilfred Agbonavbare,” the former Real Madrid midfielder posted.

Born in Lagos, Agbonavbare began his professional career in 1983 at New Nigeria Bank before heading to Gboko’s BCC Lions seven years later.

Due to his impressive performances in the Nigerian elite division, he was signed by Spanish side Rayo Vallecano in 1990 for an undisclosed fee.

In his second season with the Madrid based outfit, Agbonavbare appeared in all 38 league games (3,332 minutes of action, 27 goals conceded, second-best in the competition) as the Red Sashes finished second and returned to La Liga after two years of absence.

He remained as first-choice in the following years, contributing 31 matches to another top-flight promotion.

In the 1995–96 season, he lost his starting position to Spanish international Abel Resino. Owing to lack of playing time, he joined second-tier side Ecija Balompie.

On the international scene, the goalkeeper appeared with the Nigerian U20s at the 1983 Fifa U20 World Cup in Mexico.

Agbonavbare was part of the Super Eagles team that ruled Africa at the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations staged in Tunisia.

In addition, he was also on the team that qualified and played Nigeria’s first-ever World Cup at USA 94 where they reached the second round – where they crashed out to Italy.

Before his death, he settled in the Community of Madrid after retiring as a player, working as a deliveryman and a goalkeeper coach.