“But do you, yeah, and keep missing, Yakubu ,” rapped Nigerian hop-hop star M.I Abaga in his record ‘Beef’ off his sophomore ‘ M.I 2’. Seven years after, this pop culture reference from M.I still animates any crowd during his performances.
These responses are not reliant on the occasion, audience or stage. As long as M.I is performing in Nigeria or for Nigerians, the DJ or/and the live band stops the beat, drum whatever it is and then the crowd would go “ …keep missing, Yakubu! ”.
In case you have been living under a rock or not from Nigeria, this line is a reference to the embarrassing miss by Yakubu Aiyegbeni against South korea at the
2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Yakubu missed a glorious sitter from just three metres in a game Nigeria needed to win to progress from the group stage.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria went on the grab a draw in the game which was not enough to progress to the next round of the 2010 World Cup. Nigerians who have an emotional attachment to football never forgot that miss and that is why that MI’s reference still resonates to this very day.
The former Super Eagles striker on his 35th birthday (Wednesday, November 22) announced his retirement from football » , calling time on a career that spanned 20 years.
As usual, talks of that painful miss against South Korea dominated Nigerian social mediasphere following his announcement, a painful reminder of how Yakubu’s fine career will forever be defined by just one ill-starred moment.
Still, Yakubu leaves the game as undoubtedly one of the best strikers to ever come out from Nigeria and unarguably the most consistent Nigerian goalscorer in the modern football era.
He scored goals for fun everywhere he played, from
Maccabi Haifa to Portsmouth , Middlesbrough , Everton and Blackburn .
After early promises at Maccabi Haifa especially in the
Champions League , Harry Redknapp snapped him up for Portsmouth in January 2003.
He joined with Portsmouth in the Championship (then known as Football League First Division) and with seven goals helped the Pompey boys to the title and promotion to the Premier League .
His move to Portsmouth was made permanent that summer and from then on Yakubu dominated the Premier League.
In his two full seasons at Portsmouth, he scored 28 goals before a move to Middlesbrough where he only got better scoring 19 goals in all competitions. In his second season at the Riverside Stadium, he scored 12 league goals before he joined Everton in a then-record signing in 2007.
At Goodison Park, Yakubu had his best season, scoring 21 goals in all competitions to become the first Everton player since Peter Beardsley in 1992 to score more than 20 goals in a season.
Although Blackburn suffered relegation in 2011/2012 season, the Nigerian still managed an impressive 17 league goals.
He left the Premier League for China with 95 goals in 252 appearances- the third highest-scoring African in the Premier behind Didier Drogba (104) and Emmanuel Adebayor (97)- and 119 goals in English football.
That miss against South Korea is not the only reason he became some sort of bete noire to Nigerian football lovers. Club-football Yakubu was far from parallel to Super Eagles Yakubu. Although His 21 goals for Nigeria makes him the third highest-goalscorer for the Super Eagles, he always seemed despondent in national colours.
His several fall-outs with national team handlers didn’t help matters either; he was sent home by coach
Christian Chukwu from the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Tunisia after he flouted camp rules and opted out of the squad for the 2006 AFCON choosing instead to remain with his club Middleborough.
And then there was that miss.
For Nigeria, he still had his moment, scoring Super Eagles only goal in the third-place match of the 2002 AFCON against host Mali to win bronze.
The topsy-turvy nature of international football does not always guarantee a direct translation of club form-
Thiery Henry at his peak was never that influential for France- and at a time when Nigerian football was marred by inconsistent coaching and chaotic administration, Yak never had the luxury of playing in a very good Super Eagles team.
Without any doubt, Yakubu lays claim to being the best Nigerian striker at least in the modern era. Vintage Yak was unplayable. At his pomp, he had the combination of sheer strength and skill that made him a scourge for even the best Premier League defenders.
Despite his big frame, Yak had a style of play that was snazzy and there was that burst of pace added his power that left defenders in his wake.
He also scored all type of goals; from goalmouth scrambles to shots from long range to headers, anyhow you preferred it, he scored them.
Yakubu’s stroke of bad luck against South Korea will sadly remain his most defining moment for Nigerians who were totally let-down by that miss. But it takes nothing away from his numbers.
Like Jay Z said, “ numbers don’t lie, check the scoreboard .”