Yakubu Aiyegbeni: An agonising proof one moment can define a footballer

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On a cold Durban night in June 2010, on the well-manicured lush green lawn of the massive Moses Mabhida Stadium. Nigeria’s hope of making the 2010 World Cup round of 16 had just been waxed by Argentina’s defeat of Greece.

The optimism could almost be felt physically as it fizzed through the trumpets and drums of the Nigerian Supporters Club, resounding through the entire sporting edifice. A bouncing castle belching out motivations and prayers for Eagles to flap their super wings and soar.

Kalu Uche had sent them near the pleasure height of bedlam when he swept in Chidi Odiah’s cross and although, the South Koreans did claw back through Lee Jung Soo and surged to the lead when a Park Chu Young free-kick floated above the wall and beyond Vincent Enyeama, the singing and dancing from the band won’t even drop a decibel because, Eagles were playing like they can do it.

Then it happened. The moment that beclouded all the sunshine of a football career. The moment that morphed into many memes and comedies. The moment that will always lounge painfully in the memories of all Nigerians.

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Yakubu Aiyegbeni found himself standing just 3 yards away from an open net. The ball flew in from the left. He saw it fly towards him. He had the best space, time and situation in the world to make this count. And it should be a fairly easy tap-in for him. The ball connected with his stronger right-foot and, somehow, he steered it wide, gracing the far-post as it rolled off the pitch.

The bouncing castle of the Supporters club was deflated instantly. Yakubu reflexively threw his hand over his head, shocked.  The entire stadium, filled with hopeful Africans, was also thrown into the dark abyss of puzzlement and bewilderment. How on Earth did he miss that?

It shouldn’t have been like this. It shouldn’t have been him. It shouldn’t have been this notorious, 6-yards area cold-eyed poacher that have sent cold drips of fear down the spine of some of the greatest English defenders, Rio Ferdinand and Jamie Carragher. A stout-looking “beast” that have bagged over 100 goals in English Football. A born scorer who opened his account for the Super Eagles as an 18-year-old teenager and would go on to add 20 more to afford himself a seat just behind the legendary Rashidi Yekini and the otherworldly Segun Odegbami as the third highest goal-scorer for the Super Eagles. A reputed vanguard who’s the highest goalscoring Nigerian in EPL and second on the African chart just behind the mercurial Didier Drogba. It shouldn’t have been him.

Although, he responded almost immediately and slotted​ in a spot-kick, it didn’t save Nigeria from crashing out. The deed had already been done. His decade-long reputation as a pin-point striker has already been slated by just one second of sloppiness. His over 120 career goals has been muddled by just one touch. That was the moment when a venerable striker descended into mockery and became a “dictionary word” synonymous with profligacy

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