Sport  |  Football  

From ‘calamity’ Yobo to ‘the special one’

By Gowon Akpodonor |   22 February 2020   |   3:01 am  

Long after the referee blew his whistle to end the round of 16 match between the Super Eagles and Les Blues of France, the President of Nigeria Football Supporters Club, Dr. Rafiu Ladipo, was rooted to his seat in shock.

It was a long journey for Ladipo and his members from the city of Sao Paolo to the capital Brasilia to cheer the Eagles. They were looking forward to a quarterfinal ticket, but things went the other way.

As coach Stephen Keshi, his technical crew members and the players were sniveling around the pitch wearing long faces, with some French players, including Karim Benzema trying to console them, Ladipo was speechless with a lot of things running through his mind.“I am totally confused,” Ladipo shook his head repeatedly during a brief chat with The Guardian. “Our months of preparation for the World Cup had just ended here in Brasilia,” he said in a low voice.

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“We played our part, beating the drums and rendering the best kind of music for the team to beat France. At a point, I thought we could beat them and secure the quarterfinal ticket. But the Super Eagles just paid the big prize for not making use of the scoring chances that came their way. It is disappointing,” he said.

With his eyes glued to a particular place, and his right hand on his head, Ladipo continued: “I pity the captain, Joseph Yobo. To score an own goal on his last match for the Super Eagles is a bad one. How I wish Yobo would have another opportunity to play for the Super Eagles before waving goodbye.”

In Brazil, the Super Eagles drew with Iran before beating Bosnia and Herzegovina, thanks to a lone goal by Osaze Odenwingie. The 3-2 defeat to Argentina notwithstanding, the Eagles made it to the round of 16.It wasn’t exactly the way Yobo wanted to mark his 100th and final appearance for Nigeria.

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Yobo was a ‘non playing captain’ for the Super Eagles at South Africa 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, which Nigeria won. He only featured in the last minutes of Super Eagles matches. Yobo turned his attention to playing at Brazil 2014 World Cup, though many Nigerian fans opined that he had no place in the team.

He was dropped from Nigeria’s World Cup and Nations Cup qualifiers and Confederations Cup, which led to a face-off with coach Stephen Keshi. However, he received a soft landing with his call-up for the Mundial build-up game between Nigeria and Mexico.

Injury to defender Godfrey Oboabuna in the first game against Iran at the World Cup in Brazil gave Yobo a regular shirt in Eagles remaining matches. However, on a day Yobo was expected to look back and remember with a feeling of nostalgia, having made a record 100th appearance for the Super Eagles, he decided to remind the fans memory of his long time nickname-‘Calamity Yobo.’

With one of his last touches in international football, the man who held Nigeria’s defence for over 13 years scored an injury-time own goal, thereby putting the game beyond Nigeria. Before then the Les Blues had shot into the lead and the Super Eagles were pressing hard for an equaliser. And just before he announced his retirement from international duty, Yobo said: “I would have loved to have done it differently. He said after the match in Brasilia that he would be retiring from international duty to concentrate on his club career and spend more time with his family.

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Yobo became the first Nigerian to reach a century of international caps. He followed the likes of Nwankwo Kanu who announced his retirement after South Africa 2010 World Cup.The recent news of Yobo’s appointment, replacing Imama Amapakabo as assistant to Gernot Rohr, has continued to generate mixed reactions from football fans and stakeholders across the globe.

While former NFF Technical Director, Kashimawo Laloko, queried the decision to hand Yobo such a position, United States-based former Green Eagles winger, Sam Okpodu feels he should be supported.Laloko said there was no basis for Yobo’s choice where there were better qualified former players that could assist Coach Gernot Rohr.

Laloko revealed that he paved the way for Yobo’s entry into the national team in 2000 when Bonfere Jo inquired from him how good he was after he received a call from Yobo.“What is Yobo’s qualification?” Laloko queried. “What qualified him as an assistant coach of the Super Eagles? I was the one who brought Joseph Yobo to the Super Eagles in 2000. We were in Malaga, Spain, preparing for the Nations Cup and we were to play against the Catalan team. For the friendly, we were short of players and Bonfere Jo said somebody called him and he said Yobo. I told him to bring him in.

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“I know he is always on the International TV station commenting on matches. So, is that what qualifies him to be assistant to Rohr?” Laloko said. On his part, U.S.-based Okpodu, a mercurial winger, who led Bendel Insurance FC to defeat crowd-pulling Stationery Stores in the final of 1980 National Challenge Cup in Lagos, said: “Yobo represented Nigeria at the highest level of football and I will always support anyone who played for the country at that level. The only thing I want Yobo to do is to improve on his coaching ability so that he can have greater impact on our football,” Okpodu stated.

Yobo has promised to use his wealth of experience as former international to help the national team return to the summit of African football.“I want to add my quota to the development of the team,” Yobo said on a radio programme monitored in Lagos during the week. “As a former player and captain, I will like to bring my defensive capabilities into the team and I believe it will be a massive improvement to the backline.

“I also want to learn from the coach [Rohr] because he has done well since taking over the team and it will be an honour to learn under him whilst I also pursue my Uefa/Caf badges.”Perhaps, one thing he could do to erase the old tag is to train Super Eagles defenders to avoid scoring own goals in his tenure as assistant coach of the team. In that way, many fans will easily forget the days of ‘Calamity Yobo to embrace him as the ‘Special One’.

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