Yakubu Aiyegbeni: A successful Eagle imprisoned by memories of one miss
Nobody is perfect !!!! that is the moral lesson from today’s walk through the ” history books ” as we throwback on the unfair judgement of Yakubu Aiyegbeni’s football career with the open-net miss vs South Korea in 2010.
One of Nigeria’s most prolific strikers, Aiyegbeni had a goal-laden career at all his clubs and with the Super Eagles of Nigeria but it is the miss vs South Korea that is mostly remembered by his countrymen.
With 21 goals in 57 outings for Nigeria, only the legendary duo of Rashidi Yekini and Segun Odegbami have scored more goals for the three-time African champions than Yakubu Aiyegbeni.
At club level, ‘the Yak’ had an even more impressive goalscoring record. 24 goals in 49 games to help Maccabi Haifa claim two Israeli Premier League titles before moving to England with Portsmouth.
At Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton, Leicester, and Blackburn, Aiyegbeni racked up a total of 96 Premier League goals – to be ranked as the third-highest African goalscorer in Premier League history.
THE ODD MOMENT THAT STUCK
On 22 June 2010, Yakubu Aiyegbeni unfortunately became victim of just how one miss can invalidate a decade of dedicated service.
One moment that has imprisoned his impressive goal return in the green-white-green colours of Nigeria, the third all-time highest goal-scorer being used as example for misfiring strikers is just so unfair.
Over 12-years after, it is common in Nigeria that if a striker is likened to Aiyegbeni then It means he misses a lot of goal-scoring opportunities. A notion – created by memories of that improbable miss against South Korea in Nigeria’s final group match at the World Cup in South Africa.
On that fate day in June 2010, the Super Eagles went into its third group game knowing a win could secure qualification to the knock-out round despite losing the opening two games.
A first-half opener was cancelled out by goals on either side of half-time by their Asian counterparts, who were themselves in with a chance of progression.
Then, in the 66th minute, Aiyegbeni had a chance to level the score from a well worked cut-back from Yusuf Ayila.
Aiyegbeni famously diverted the low cross wide of the near upright from less than six yards out.
That miss has since become a meme around the world, with fans especially Nigerians who are still hurt with memories of that miss regularly using Aiyegbeni as byword for clear-cut misses.
Extra weight was added to the burden from that glorious miss as the cameras, panned on Aiyegbeni’s face in that moment.
The striker was caught with a smile on his face as he chewed gum. According to the striker, that image belied a great deal of turmoil underneath the surface.
“Inside, I was dying and asking myself, ‘But how?’” he said. “What really happened? I was in a state of abject shock.” Aiyegbeni explained.
BEYOND THAT MISS
Yakubu Aiyegbeni remains one of Nigeria’s greatest and most prolific strikers in history.
Yak-the-Bull in 2017 announced his retirement from active football and has since gone into player agency.
The record book is rich with glorious moments when Aiyegbeni brought smile to the faces of football fans in Nigeria and at all the clubs he played.
Beyond that miss, Yakubu Aiyegbeni had a successful football career.