Former Super Eagles striker Aiyegbeni Yakubu announced his retirement from professional football on Wednesday, on his 35th birthday.
The announcement awoke memories of Yakubu’s last outing with the senior National team, a World Cup group game against South Korea in Durban in 2010. Many of us remember what happened that fateful day and that seem to have erased in our minds, whatever good Yakubu had done for club and country.
To set the records straight: With 21 goals, Yakubu is the 3rd highest goal scorer for Nigeria’s senior national team, the Super Eagles and our Chief Football Writer, Fisayo Dairo, not a forgetful person, compiles Yakubu’s best five moments in the Nigerian colour he had in his memory.
1.) Nigeria vs Honduras (Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide) September 13, 2000
Although this was with the Under-23s at the Sydney Olympics, it remains indelible as that was the first time Aiyegbeni Yakubu’s impact was felt in the green and white colour of Nigeria.
With David Suazo inspired Honduras cruising to a 3-1 lead over Nigeria, substitute Yakubu took the game by the scruff of the neck, first an incisive cross from the left flank to assist Victor Agali twelve minutes from time to reduce the deficit to 2-3 and in stoppage time, he produced a beauty of a goal – picked up the ball from the left flank, beat two of his markers on the same line and unleashed an unstoppable effort from outside the box into the top corner to ensure honours were even.
2.) Sudan vs Nigeria (Al Merriekh Stadium, Ombdurman) July 1, 2001
Undoubtedly Yakubu’s first big moment with the Super Eagles. Nigeria were trailing Liberia in Group B of qualification for the 2002 World Cup and needed victory so badly in Sudan while hoping Ghana also do them the favours in Monrovia.
With Ghana doing the business in the afternoon, Nigeria produced a masterclass in sweltering conditions on the night, Yakubu netting twice in the second half en route to a 4-0 victory over the hosts.
Yakubu’s first just after the half time break came after a brilliant solo run down the left before a composed finish from a tight angle. That proved crucial in Nigeria’s eventual qualification.
3.) Nigeria vs Mali (Stade Bocoum, Mopti, Mali) February 9, 2002
In Yakubu’s first international tournament with the Super Eagles, he found regular playing time hard to come by, for a teenager he was then.
He eventually got a chance to start in the much maligned third place match against hosts Mali. The Yak took his opportunity well and netted what turned out to be the winner inside the opening half hour.
4.) Kenya vs Nigeria (Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi) November, 14 2009
Another qualifying game which held a lot for the National team. It was the final round of qualifying for the World Cup and Nigeria needed an outright win at Kenya while also hoping Tunisia fail to win in Maputo against Mozambique. Both games held simultaneously.
In Nairobi, Kenya took a 1-0 lead into half time but Nigeria turned it around through Obafemi Martins and then Yakubu who gave Nigeria the lead for the first time in the game with a trademark point blank finish – the opponents waiting for the offside flag.
Nigeria went on to win 3-2 and booked a spot in the first FIFA World Cup finals to be staged in Africa.
5.) Nigeria vs South Korea (Durban Stadium, South Africa) June 22, 2010
Unfortunately the game which defined Yakubu’s international career. Nigeria were without a point going into the game but still had an outside chance with a victory over the Asians.
However, with the game at 1-2, Yakubu rather inexplicably diverted Ayila Yusuf’s cut back wide from a central position in front of an empty net. Many Nigerians claimed to be insulted by Yak’s demeanour after the miss – a gum chewing smile in front of millions of global TV audience.
Not many remember that Yakubu kept his composure to equalize for Nigeria from the penalty spot three minutes after that incident, to them, that matters not.
The record books cannot be erased however, whenever the names of Super Eagles legends are reeled out, the name Aiyegbeni Yakubu will be mentioned after Rashidi Yekini and Segun Odegbami on the list of the all-time highest goal scorers.
Happy birthday Legend Yakubu and have a great retirement.