WE YAKUBUED IT
We can't afford to say you didn't try for us, Mighty One. You gave us the last opportunity to progress into the second phase of the World Cup, but we blew it. We Yakubued it!
Even where we didn't deserve your favour, you gave us your favour. Even when we didn't merit your grace, you gave us your undeserved grace. You gave us a lifeline. You gave us one more chance. Everything was in our hand to progress, but we failed to score when it mattered most.
Thanks to a burly striker called Yakubu Ayegbeni, who frittered away the easiest opportunity to score in the entire World Cup history. Here he was, face to face with an empty net. All he needed was to put the ball into the empty net at a close range. Even an amateur player, like me would have scored this goal for my country.
But a professional, like Yakubu fumbled and missed the goal, in what has been described as the worst miss in the history of the World Cup.
After all you have achieved in life, may your name not go into the Guinness Book of Records as executing the worst miss in the history of football. How did Yakubu miss this easiest of all chances? The more you think about it, the more you shake your head in grief and disappointment. How on earth did a professional striker of his stature disappoint himself and his nation when it mattered most? Twice he had the opportunity to score and he wasted the two crucial opportunities, even though, he made one amend by scoring a penalty.
I don't know who has hurt Nigeria more. Is it the kung fu fighting Kaita who was given a red card in that unprovoked show of shame that caused Greece to eventually overpower us with their one man superiority?
For a long time to come, Nigerians would never forget the two names of Kaita and Yakubu. They were the two players who took Nigeria to Ground Zero leading to our elimination from the World Cup. But then, you can't blame them in isolation. Soccer is a team game. In victory and in defeat, the whole team, including the coach, carries the praise and the blame. Please, let's forgive Kaita and Yakubu even though it's difficult to.
The Nigeria-South Korea match still hurts and infuriates me. I hate to think about it. I hate to write about it. Here was a team that had lost everything. We had lost to Argentina. We had lost to Greece in what I would describe as a DIS-GREECEFUL loss, thanks to Kaita. But God still gave us the mercy and the chance to qualify in spite of all our inadequacies. Again, with the famous hand of God, Maradona and Argentina had done us a favour by beating Greece. With just three points, we would have miraculously entered the Round of 16 to the consternation of the world. And from there, who knows what would have happened?
But today, Nigeria is a soccer laughing stock, a write-off. Everybody is laughing at a country that got a rare opportunity to progress, but we bungled it. Even the Koreans can't believe their luck. They are thanking their God and thanking Yakubu for the rare gift he gave them. A gift of blunder!
As to be expected, poor Yakubu is being fingered as one of the villains of the World Cup. What made it worse was that he was laughing as usual, instead of crying and being remorseful. Maybe he did not know the gravity of what he had done.
Take Yakubu's blunder and contrast it with Landon Donovan of the USA, who found himself in an identical situation, where he had to score for his country at the last minute to help USA qualify into the second round. Landon Donovan, like Yakubu has Everton in his blood. But one Evertonian had lifted his country up while the other had brought his country down to the abyss of exit. One is saying, 'I am proud to be an American tonight,' while the other is even too afraid to look Nigerians in the face. Opportunity, they say, comes only once. Donovan seized the opportunity when it came and he became an instant hero. For Yakubu, opportunity came twice and he Yakubued it on each occasion.
In this age when the world has become a tiny global village, Yakubu's name was on Twitter, where he dominated discussions and became the butt of global ridicule. On Twitter, Yakubu has become a word, which means many things: to miss, to fritter away chances, to make a big blunder, to disappoint, to waste in a prodigal fashion. According to one Twitter user by the code name Xugikifol, 'Yakubu is a new word in Advanced World Cup dictionary meaning 'miss.' It can be used by girls in an expression like: I have Yakubu my period.' Another user says: 'I will not Yakubu my lunch break today.'
In the Yakubu-esque world of today, a girl who misses her boyfriend writes: 'Boy, I am Yakubuing you too much.'
When you look at it, the story of Nigeria is not different from the story of Yakubu. It is a catalogue of blunders, misses and near misses. Every opportunity we have had to raise Nigeria to the platform of greatness, we have blundered it; we have shot over the bar; we have missed the goal; we have Yakubued it.
Our politics is as dirty as the story of Kaita, the kung fu fighter on the soccer pitch. How can one forget the show of shame at the House of Representatives this week, with our so-called men of honour, trading punches, tearing clothing, tearing themselves into pieces and causing bedlam and lawlessness in the house where laws are made?
Nigeria is now a Jabulani ball, with everybody kicking us about, kicking us out of the World Cup. It's so sad. The country that prides itself as the giant of Africa is now a dwarf of African soccer. Thanks to our spineless Super Eagles.
Now, it's time again for blame game. Who do we blame? Is it the coach? Some are saying it's the ghost of Amodu haunting Nigeria. I don't believe in ghosts. I like the fact that Coach Lagerback is accepting blame for everything. That is the way it should be. A coach, like a good leader, should accept blame.
We are out of the World Cup, but I don't believe it's time to hang the coach. I am tired of this ding-dong, this oscillation between foreign and local coaches. Let's leave Lagerback alone this time round. Let's give him another four years so that he can know the team well enough to be able to coach them well.
Overall, it's sad and ironic that this is the worst World Cup performance by Africa in a World Cup taking place in Africa. Teams, like Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire and Cameroun, from whom much was expected, ended up Yakubuing our hope, our faith and our dreams of an African team winning the World Cup in Africa.
Now, we all have to go back once again to the drawing board where dÃ©jÃ vu lies.
Instead of wasting money and time on participating in the World Cup, why don't we commission a master craftsman or a goldsmith to make us a golden World Cup, which we would parade every four years as our trophy? It may cost money, but in the end, it would save us from heart attacks, heartbreaks and colossal disappointment by a bunch of kung fu fighters and overweight players in the colours of Nigeria.