How Yakubu's Miss in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Forever Changed Nigerian Football
On June 22, 2010, the Nigerian and South Korean international football teams met at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban in the final group stage match of Group B.
So far in the World Cup, Nigeria was a major disappointment, losing 1-0 to Argentina and 2-1 to Greece, and could have only advanced onto the round of 16 if they won their final match against South Korea.
Meanwhile, South Korea was able to beat Greece 2-0 before losing 4-1 to Argentina, which was due in large part to a hat trick by Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain.
In the match between Nigeria and South Korea, Nigeria took an early lead in the 12th minute off of a great finish by Kalu Uche after a low cross from Chidi Odiah.
However, goals from Lee Jung-Soo and Park Chu-Young gave South Korea a 2-1 lead, which looked to be enough for South Korea to advance into the round of 16.
However, Nigeria got a chance in the 66th minute that the Super Eagles will probably never forget.
On the end of a pass from Ayila Yussuf that was fed through the South Korean defense was none other than Yakubu Aiyegbeni, who was one of the most accomplished players in Nigerian international football history, and a star player for Everton of the English Premier League.
Once the pass found Yakubu's foot about four yards away from the empty goal, Yakubu pushed the ball wide of the left post to keep South Korea ahead 2-1.
Three minutes later, Yakubu was able to calmly finish a penalty to knot the score at two apiece, but the damage was done as Nigeria was unable to score again and the match ended in a 2-2 draw.
With this result, Nigeria was eliminated from the 2010 World Cup with just one point, while South Korea advanced into the round of 16 with four points.
To make matters worse for Nigeria, Greece also lost to Argentina 2-0 in Polokwane, which meant that Nigeria would have advanced into the round of 16 if they had won.
Nigeria would have in all likelihood advanced into the round of 16 if Yakubu would have scored in the 66th minute, as they would have remained on the offensive against a South Korean defense that was extremely vulnerable at the time.
Just eight days following Yakubu's miss, Nigerian football was given another major shock when President Goodluck Jonathan announced that the national team was going to be suspended for two years due to widespread corruption that existed within the Nigerian Football Federation.
During the World Cup, Nigerian football officials supposedly wasted money such as the $250,000 to charter a faulty aircraft to fly the national team from London to South Africa and paying $800,000 in allowances to 220 delegates to the World Cup when only 49 were approved.
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They also allegedly incurred a $125,000 fine over a failed hotel deal in South Africa.
Shortly following the suspension, the Nigerian government withdrew their ban and the Nigerian National Team was able to once again participate in competitions.
But Nigeria's freedom lasted only until October 4, when the Nigerian High Court forced members of the NFF executive committee into trial, preventing them from exercising their functions and duties.
Due to this, the Nigerian Football Federation was unable to carry out its duties free from governmental interference, and FIFA immediately suspended the Nigerian Football Federation indefinitely over the government's actions.
Several days later, FIFA relinquished their suspension over Nigeria and allowed the national team to play in an African Cup of Nations qualifier against Guinea on October 10 (which Nigeria lost 1-0).
In the middle of November, Nigerian football was once again put into the spotlight when it was revealed that Nigeria's Amos Adamu allegedly dealt with the transfer of votes for the United States to host the 2018 World Cup (even though the Americans previously withdrew from hosting the World Cup in 2018).
The investigation (which was started by the Sunday Times of London) showed that Adamu was going to take $800,000 and in return offer to tilt his vote in the contest to host the 2018 World Cup.
The $800,000 would then be used to help build artificial pitches in Nigeria.
As a result of Amadu's actions, he has been suspended for the next three and a half years, and was not allowed to vote for the host nation for either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup's.
Amadu's actions have also showed the world that corruption was widespread throughout Nigerian society.
In Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010, Nigeria had a low 2.4 score (with ten being extremely transparent). Nigeria was tied with eight other nations with that 2.4 ranking, which makes Nigeria the 134th most transparent nation in the world out of 178 countries.
Today, Nigeria finds themselves with a national team that is in complete disarray, and everything has the potential to get a lot worse.
On January 22, 2011, Nigeria will be having their next presidential elections with President Jonathan looking to get reelected.
But with the northern Muslim population wanting to once again ascend to the presidency following the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua earlier this year, tensions between the North and the Christian South could hit a crescendo. There is a potential for civil war that could take place in the Middle Belt of the country.
No matter who wins the election, the loser will in all likelihood claim that the elections were rigged, and further tension could develop as a result.
However, when you look back at Yakubu's miss, one must really wonder what Nigeria could have accomplished if they went on to win the match.
And considering that South Korea only lost 2-1 to Uruguay (thanks in large part to a late goal from Luis Suarez), Nigeria could have maybe even advanced into the quarterfinal over Uruguay if Nigeria faced them.
Yakubu could have been a national hero in Nigeria by unifying them as a country.
Considering the thousands of ethnic groups that exist in Nigeria and the divide between the North and the South, Nigeria has always needed a moment that could help to unify the country.
A win against South Korea could have done that for Nigeria, who would also have the entire African continent supporting them in the round of 16.
But instead, Nigeria now needs to be helped as a nation and the entire structure for the national team will need to be fixed in the near future in order for the Super Eagles to become a power in world football.
And Yakubu knows that he did miss his chance of glory not only for himself, but for Nigeria too in Durban on that June night.
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