Sani Kaita and Nigeria’s first World Cup red card


The game of Football offers it’s competitors and even fans memorable moments that will last for a lifetime.

Sometimes it makes you laugh and cheer like a jackpot winner and other times it makes you cry and wish things had gone differently.

Former Super Eagles defensive midfielder Sani Kaita is famously remembered for his inglorious 2010 FIFA World Cup red card vs Greece, an expulsion many Nigerians hold responsible for the Eagles group stage outster in South Africa.

In this edition of ‘History book’, Nsikakabasi Akpan presents a throwback to  the incident that led to Sani Kaita’s red card, Nigeria’s first at a FIFA World Cup and the effects it had on the Midfielders career.


The 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa was the first time Africa hosted the world for football’s biggest sporting event .

Aside the fan-fare of hosting a world cup, Africa had high hopes of reaching the last-four of the tournament with Nigeria’s Super Eagles one of the favourites to reach this historic height.


Argentina, Greece and South Korea were Nigeria’s group stage opponents and after a fairly acceptable performance in a 1-0 loss to Argentina in the first match, the Eagles were tipped to defeat Greece in the next game.


Kalu Uche curled in a free-kick to hand the Super Eagles a 16th minute lead vs the Greeks on Wednesday June 16, 2010.

All was well for Lars Lagerback tutored Eagles until Sani Kaita got the marching orders for Violent conduct in the 33rd minute.

Kaita kicked out at Vassidis Torosidis after the Greece player hit his chest with the ball in a touchline incident.

The Referee sent Kaita off for violent conduct, the midfielder aghast as he walked off the turf with his shirt pulled over his head in dissapointment.

With the Eagles down to ten men, Greece got an equalizer 11 minutes after Kaita’s sending off and subsequently claimed maximum points in a 2-1 win.

Kaita was at the receiving end of mass criticism and even death threats at the end of the game.


Despite the Greece loss, Nigeria still had opportunity reach the knock-out stage with a win over South Korea in the last group game.

Kaita sat out of the 2-2 draw vs South Korea with suspension. The Super Eagles were knocked out from the tournament meaning Kaita had no further opportunity to atone for his mistake.


” Of course the match against Greece is one which I will never forget in a lifetime because it was another turning point in my career.

” That match was what I could say ended my national team career because since then I haven’t been invited to the team. The Greek player was to take a throw-in but when he took the ball he threw it at my chest, which got me angry and I kicked out at him.

” I think the red card was rather harsh because I had not been booked before that action.


Make no mistake, Sani Kaita had prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup achieved success in the green white green colors of Nigeria.

A silver medalist at the 2005 World Youth Championship where he excelled in a defensive midfield role behind the mecurial John Obi Mikel.

Kaita was also an instrumental member of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Silver winning team and so had glory days on duty for his fatherland.

Infact, his career was blossoming, the Midfielder arriving for the World Cup as an AS Monaco player having joined the French Ligue One side in September 2008

At the end of the tournament, Monaco farmed the Nigerian midfielder out on loan to Metalist in August 2010.

Four months later, Kaita returned to Monaco In December 2010. In the winter transfer window, another loan transfer happened, this time Kaita joined Greek side Iraklis.

By the time he returned from Greece in June 2011, Monaco decided against renewing his contract.

Free agent Kaita agreed a move to Ukrainian side Sk Taviriya lasted a single year before a brief stint at Olympiakos from September to December 2012.

The downward slope continued and by April 2014, Kaita was back in Nigeria to join Enyimba International FC in a deal that saw him play only four matches before terminating the contract due to contractual disagreements.

Further stints at FC Saxan, Hercules and Finnish side ROPS followed before his retirement in January 2018 .


” I regretted my action because the team became exposed after the red card. All the good things I did in the match was forgotten and the red card was what everybody was talking about.

” That year was really tough because that card was the second red card I would collect – I had collected one at my club then – and it really hurts to be a part of the reasons for the country’s failure at the 2010 World Cup. ” The 22-Cap Ex-Nigerian international said while explaining his travails following that one odd minute.

Perhaps the History book has not been fair enough to Sani Kaita.


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