Okonkwo: Rise of U-17 World Cup winner before FIFA ban
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On Saturday, the Nigeria Football Federation announced, through a statement, that Nigerian striker Orji Okonkwo had been suspended from football for four years by FIFA, after being found guilty of a doping violation.
The 24-year-old, who plays for Serie A side Bologna, was initially handed the ban by Italy’s national anti-doping agency (Nado Italia) in June.
In February, Okonkwo – who is set to appeal – tested positive for the steroid clostebol during a loan spell at Cittadella.
Clostebol, which the player said he used to treat a problematic knee, is on the World Anti-Doping Code prohibited list.
FIFA’s disciplinary committee has now extended the Nado Italia sanctions to have “worldwide effect”, according to its chairperson Jorge Ivan Palacio.
“Consequently, the committee decided to extend the sanction imposed on the player by the Italian Nado on June 20, 2022,” read a FIFA statement.
“More specifically, the player is sanctioned with a four years suspension from all football-related activities in accordance with the decision.”
His ban has been backdated to February 25 and he will be free to play again on February 24 2026.
Okonkwo joined Bologna in northern Italy in August 2016, a year after he helped Nigeria, alongside Napoli’s Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze of Villarreal, win the 2015 U-17 World Cup.
He made 30 appearances, scoring three goals in 27 Serie A matches, for the side, including four starts.
Okonkwo had two notable loan spells at Major League Soccer side Montreal Impact and also spent time on loan at Italian second-tier clubs Brescia, Reggina and Cittadella.
At the international level, Okwonkwo started three games for Nigeria at the 2019 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations, scoring a goal against Zambia.
He starred as the West African nation clinched a fifth U-17 world title in Chile seven years ago, appearing in five games during the tournament and scoring in the 4-2 semi-final win over Mexico.