Tomorrow, June 12, the World Cup officially kicks off! We have got world cup fever in our bones, and our African Star this bright sunny day, is none other than Nigeria’s Joseph Yobo; presently quartered in Brazil with the rest of the Super Eagles and the 4 African countries who made it this far.
The 33-year old was born in Kono, Khana of the Ogoni Kingdom of Rivers State; Yobo grew up lacking the basic amenities that most city dwellers take for granted; he barely managed to scrape through Secondary School in an environment where illiteracy and poverty were Lord and Lady.
Fortune, talent, and perhaps a bit of good luck smiled on the teenager, when he had the opportunity to play at the World Youth Championships and work his way up the ladder.
According to him, Lady Luck finally smiled on him because “Although I grew up in an average family and managed to finish secondary school, other people around us were not so fortunate. There were people who were not able to realise their potential, even though they were brilliant, because their families could not afford to take them all the way.”
Yobo left Nigeria in 1998 and made his first team debut in 2000 for Standard Liege, and went on to appear 46 times. In 2001, he was bought by Marseille.
Now credited with being the most capped Nigerian player with 96 caps, Yobo’s illustrious national career started in 1999, and blossomed when he played with the national team for the 2002 World Cup, and even provided the assist for his side’s only goal of the tournament.
With an enviable football international football career, spanning continents and clubs it might have been a simple matter for Yobo to wipe the slate and forget his impecunious roots, but that wasn’t the cloth he was cut from. In 2007, he established the Joseph Yobo Foundation to aid the lives of under-privileged children from his home region in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.
“What I am doing with this foundation is to help people in a similar situation achieve their full potential in whatever they do, and I am proud to be able to help. I know how I started and it wasn’t easy for me either,” Yobo told BBC Sport. “I am starting in my area because charity begins at home, but my vision is to take this project to every part of Nigeria.
“When I went to the homes of abandoned kids and those living with HIV/Aids I was close to tears and began to appreciate how lucky some of us are in this world. Such places make you feel sad and I have vowed to do the best I can to help relieve their struggle. I see myself as someone who is privileged enough to be able to help elevate others who are not so fortunate. We live in a country where everyone deserves equal opportunities and amenities; my determination is to spread whatever wealth I can around. It’s not easy to do it all alone but I’ll try all possible means to do my bit and hope that will attract others as well.”
The captain of the triumphant Super Eagles at the 2013 African Cup of Nations, his career is also graced with a world cup hat trick as his revived international career with Nigeria means that he is a part of the Super Eagles 23-man squad for Brazil 2014.
Married with a son, Yobo’s roses have been full of many thorns, and we can only wish him the very best as he captains Nigeria to the finals. *wink*
So go easy on him, Nigerians; he is a Super Eagle on and off the field! In an interview with kickoffnigeria.com, he said,
“This is football. I’m still hungry; I still enjoy what I do, especially for my family because I do most things for them. My son is coming up now; he needs to see me play.”
How hungry are you for what you want? Yobo’s hunger sure seems to be paying dividends!