Why Yakubu Aiyegbeni is West-Africa's best striker.

Source: Samuel K. Obour

Oh my God! I almost forgot…! Cote d'Ivoire is in West Africa and Chelsea's Didier Drogba is an Ivorian. This means Drogba, rather than Yakubu, is West Africa's best striker. Ah… okay… that makes Yakubu Aiyegbeni West Africa's second best striker.

The foregoing would surprise, confuse, or shock you if you didn't know that Yakubu is Nigeria's third highest goal scorer ever with 21 international goals in 57 matches. He has also scored over 100 goals in the English Premier league. 'Oh come off it!' somebody might exclaim. 'Is it not this same Yakubu who missed a sitter in Nigeria's final group game against Korea at the World Cup in South-Africa. Yes, it's a fact that Yakubu's performance at the World Cup was poor. Sometimes, I ask myself whether the Yakubu I saw at the World Cup in South-Africa is the same guy (or man?) who had been banging in goals in the English Premiership prior to the World Cup. However, the fact that players like Ronaldo, Rooney, and Torres were even more dismal in South-Africa convinces me beyond doubt that the Yakubu we saw was the same prolific Yakubu we had always known.

After Nigeria failed to progress beyond the group stages of the World Cup, following their inability to defeat South-Korea in their last group match, Yakubu Aiyegbeni was harshly and unfairly identified as the cause of Nigeria's failure. He consequently came under intensive and in some cases, irrational criticisms from a cross-section of the Nigerian public, mainly because he had failed to 'simply' tap the ball into an open net from six yards in the decisive Korea game. I stumbled upon the following criticisms of Yakubu on Kick off Magazine:

1. 'Let it be the last time Yakubu will play for Nigeria. Is Largerback so stupid to take Kanu off? What about that old fat Yakubu?'-Teatop

2. 'After this match I have decided to forgive Sani Kaita, those who have Yakubu's email address should give me, I will personally send him a death threat letter, and those who want to kill Sani Kaita should forgive him and kill that Yakubu and his juju'-Ajibola

3. 'Yakubu oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo hey what an evil man. What a loser, what an idiot, what a mess of a stupid striker.'-Dibia

4. Why on Earth will lagerbeer play Yakubu with Kanu, instead of Martins and Kanu? This is where I blame lagermalt. He has played Yakubu twice and nothing to show for it, why play him again knowing fully well that Yakubu is a moron'-Dibia

The preceding are but a few of the hostile comments made by Nigerian football fans after that horrible (I must admit.) Yakubu miss. Personally, I feel sad that Yakubu has been singled out as a villian after the South-Korea game. This is especially so in view of the fact that a certain Rabiu Afolabi was so poor that he gave away the ball that led the Koreans to cancel out Nigeria's 1-o lead. The 'villain' tag should have been reserved for Rabiu. At least, Yakubu scored a penalty to bring Nigeria level on 2-2 after South-Korea had gone ahead.

To worsen matters for Yakubu, officials of the Nigerian Football Federation have covertly decided to exclude him from the national team. In my candid opinion, the preceding development cannot be justified especially when everyone is susceptible to mistakes. Didn't Roberto Baggio miss a penalty that would have won Italy the World Cup at U.S.A. 1994 ? Didn't an overconfident Asamoah Gyan miss a penalty that would have given Ghana a historic and unprecedented semi-final berth at the World Cup in South-Africa? Indeed, anyone who watched Manchester City's third week Premiership fixture against Sunderland would have seen Carlos Tevez's terrible miss in that game. Manchester City went on to lose that game 1-0, but nobody is blaming Tevez. Needless to say, such things occur occasionally in football, and when they do, we (fans and administrators) should be ready to share in the pain and burden of the unfortunate 'culprit' or 'victim'.

In my opinion, Yakubu, who has scored over 100 Premier League goals, is the still one of Africa's top three goal poachers despite his World Cup woes. 100 goals in the Premier league is a feat many footballers, including Didier Drobga envy.

Yakubu's critics should name, apart from Samuel Eto and Didier Drogba, an African striker who possesses a better international goal scoring record and pedigree than Yakubu Aiyegbeni, who is affectionately referred to as 'the Yak'.

The earlier Nigerian fans and football administrators stopped victimizing and ostracizing Yakubu, the better for Africa football.

Long live African football!
Credit: Samuel K. Obour