by ‘Ifreke Inyang
Like a recurring nightmare, Yakubu Aiyegbeni is back in our consciousness. How can we possibly ignore the powerful frontman, when our number one football addiction is the English Premiership? In the now famous game against Swansea City, Aiyegbeni put up a sensational one-man show, banging in all four goals to earn Blackburn Rovers a 4-2 home victory over Swansea. I watched with interest as people reacted to his exploits on social media and on the streets, hailing his every move.
Our grievances with ‘the Yak’ evaporated in an instant. It had taken a horrendous miss from three yards for us to send him into exile and now a four goal show had suddenly bought redemption.
It is perhaps instructive we note that scoring goals has never been a problem for him. It was the second time Aiyegbeni has struck four goals in a league game. Seven years ago, he achieved the feat for Portsmouth against Middlesbrough at Fratton Park. Aiyegbeni is regarded as one of the best African footballers to have graced the Premiership, and he is second to the legendary Thierry Henry in the goal to game stats.
I could picture Stephen Keshi watching on, as the Aiyegbeni covered himself in glory. When asked if he considered recalling the striker, he said: “Only the best players will make my team, no matter what anyone thinks. I will pick Yak on form to play for Nigeria if he keeps scoring in the English League. I want to win matches and only the fittest in Europe and Nigeria can deliver results for me.”
Irrespective of his scoring spree, opinion remains divided among fans. On one side stands an army of supporters for Aiyegbeni . Their argument is simple: his experience and goal scoring prowess is needed in the Super Eagles.
“Keshi is the coach of the team. If he wants to call up Yakubu I don’t think that should generate any kind of debate because he feels Yakubu deserves to be part of the team to beef up his attack,” Christian Chukwu said. “Apart from that, when you look at our players abroad, Yakubu has done well this season and without sentiment any coach will give him the chance to play for the national team based on his current form. Right now he’s one of our best performing players.”
On the other side are those who feel the freshness and hunger of the likes of Ikechukwu Uche, Emmanuel Emenike, etc. is what we need. One of the prominent voices in this camp is that of Austin Okocha. Okocha insists Aiyegbeni’s time as a Super Eagles striker is over and should not return for the team he last played for at the 2010 World Cup.
Keshi will throw open a training camp for his Team B, consisting of players from the local league. He confirmed in an interview that he was looking at picking at least ten players from the camp. With the imminent recall of Aiyegbeni, the question that begs to be answered is: What exactly is Keshi’s agenda for Nigerian football – rebuilding or recycling? Is he seeking to build a new team that will play with passion and desire anytime they pull on the green jersey? Are we still interested in rushing back to the same old players, whether in or out of form.