Nigeria’s participation at the 2002 Fifa World Cup in Japan/South Korea is one to easily forget because the Eagles flapped her wings and refused to fly.
Despite the disappointment, there were rays of light that shone through the Nigeria set up during the tournament which will be a ‘hammer and anvil’ for a decade after that.
Having lost the first game 1-0 to Argentina in the group stage, the Eagles had to beat Sweden to stand any chance of making it into the knock-out stage.
Things started brightly for Nigeria when Julius Aghahowa powered home a header to give Nigeria a 1-0 lead. The Swedes later came back to win the game and effectively end Nigeria’s hopes of going into the second round.
Nigeria played out a goalless draw against England in the last group game and was knocked out of the competition,but a two stars were born.
One of them? Joseph Yobo. Naijabet
Julius Aghahowa’s goal was a beauty and his celebration afterwards befitted the manner it was scored.
Joseph Yobo got an ovation and a half. His marauding run down the right flank and sumptuous cross prepared the cart and the wheel for Aghahowa to ride on.
Vincent Enyeama’s excellent fingertip save from a Paul Scholes screamer in the last group game at Japan/Korea 2002, Yobo’s cross was the best highlight of the tournament
After that tournament, a captain, leader and servant was born. He will go on to skipper the team and earn over a hundred caps for super eagle-the first by any Nigeria player.
Come May 27th, 2016, Joseph Yobo will be celebrated with a testimonial at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port-Harcourt where he first started out as a footballer.
Joseph Yobo in November 1998 when he was at Standard Liege in Belgium, a young 18 years old striker who was gradually making a name for himself at the Belgian side.
He later got a call up to the Flying Eagles squad for the World Youth Championship held in Nigeria in 1999. He was in the same squad with the likes of Hashimu Garba, Eddy Dombraye, Haruna Babangida and Gbenga Okunowo.
Nigeria lost in the quarter-finals to Mali but Yobo and a couple of the other players had already shown enough to be tipped as stars of the future.
The future did come.
Yobo eventually made his début for the Super Eagles two years later in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in a 1-1 draw with Zambia in Chingola.
If that went under the radar, then the Fifa World Cup qualifier against Liberia announced him into the big stage with the Nigeria football fraternity.
A young Joseph Yobo was thrown into the deep end against the legendary George Weah and he did hold his own and showed no nerves.
He (Yobo) alongside another youngster Justice Christopher were man of the match on a rainy day as Nigeria ran out 2-0 winners.
That was the beginning of a career in the Super Eagles that will span 13 years seeing him take in 101 games and scoring seven goals playing in different positions.
He enjoyed his most successful club stint at English club side Everton where he spent eight seasons appearing 120 times for the Toffees.
Joseph Yobo’s service to Nigeria can not be quantified and as such he sure deserves his testimonial game which will see stars like Samuel Eto’o, John Terry, Jay Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu and others in attendance.
The game will be live on Supersport from 4pm (Nigeria time)
Date of birth: September 6, 1980.
Clubs: Michelin (Port-Harcourt), Standard Liege, Olympique Marseille, Everton, Fenerbache, Norwich City
First Nigeria cap: 24/03/2001 vs Zambia (Afcon qualifiers)
Last Nigeria cap: 25/08/2014 vs Argentina (Fifa World Cup)
100 Nigeria caps
13 years in the Super Eagles
Yobo has played in 3 Fifa World Cups and 6 Africa Cup of Nations tournaments.
278 games with five European clubs.