Tuesday 22 November 2022, 09:00

Ayegbeni Yakubu: I had dreamed of playing at a World Cup my whole life

“Football brings people together. Even when you’re struggling in life, once you see them playing football, you see football on TV, you want to watch and to be there at the World Cup.” We are living in uncertain times filled with conflicts and global crises. The world is divided. The FIFA World Cup, through the power of football will bring people together to cross borders, unite and celebrate together. Football Unites the World will be a global movement to inspire, unite and develop through football. FIFA Legends have shared their stories of how football united their respective countries during uncertain times, and before the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 kicked off, we took Ayegbeni Yakubu for a walk down memory lane.

Nigeria legend Ayegbeni Yakubu remains the third highest goalscorer for Africa’s most populace nation. Yakubu scored for the Super Eagles at the Mother Continent’s most poignent tournament; South Africa 2010. “It was like a dream come true,” Yakubu said of playing at South Africa 2010. “To play at the World Cup is what I’d been dreaming of all my life.” Yakubu scored the equaliser against Korea Republic in the final group match in what was Nigeria’s return to football’s greatest stage after missing Germany 2006. A win would have seen the Super Eagles qualify for the last-16 behind star-studded group winners Argentina, featuring the mercurial talents of Lionel Messi and coached by the legendary Diego Maradona.

“It’s like a big dream, you know, playing against one of the best players [from] all over the world, and, all over the world, people are watching." Having surprisingly missed selection for the 2002 World Cup, Yakubu cherishes his South Africa 2010 memories. Scoring at the tournament further heightens his status in Nigeria’s World Cup story, a journey that commenced with the nation’s memorable debut at USA ’94 where the Super Eagles were minutes away from quarter-final qualification. “USA ‘94 was quite late on [where I was],”said Yakubu, who was only 11 at the time. “I remember it all growing up, and we didn’t have lights that day, so we had to go to another street. It was like a ten minute walk, and it was quite late in the morning because of the time difference back then. “So, everyone was tired. We would go back home late because of the time difference for the game. Watching Nigeria play at USA ‘94 was like an honour for [us]. Everyone was buzzing. It brings back memories.”