Joseph Yobo describes late Shuaibu Amodu as Nigeria’s liberator during stormy times.
Wednesday marked the fourth year in the anniversary of Amodu’s passing at the age of 58 – which was at the time, three days after the death of Stephen Keshi.
The iconic coach was famed for rescuing the Super Eagles whenever they found themselves in an unwarranted state. With Nigeria’s 2002 World Cup qualification hopes in jeopardy, he pulled the country’s chestnut out of the fire after replacing axed Jo Bonfrere.
He qualified the country for the 2010 edition after a tortuous route to South Africa. Sadly, he never led the Super Eagles to both competitions as the Nigeria Football Federation hired new hands.
Quizzed on what he remembers the ex-Orlando Pirates’ manager for, Yobo sees Amodu as the country’s rescuer whenever they found themselves in precarious situations.
“He was Nigeria’s go-to when there was a problem. When the Super Eagles’ boat was rocky, the only person we could count on from the ministry down to the federation was Amodu and he comes to deliver,” the 39-year-old told Goal.
“On that note, he was Nigeria’s go-to who comes in to steady a rocky situation.
“That only happens with a man with experience, technical capacity and man-management skills to be able to do that.”
The former Everton and Norwich City defender also recounts how he handled the news about his death.
“I was devastated,” he continued. “You can’t quantify the pain that someone feels when you lose someone you are close to. The one of Amodu after losing Keshi was more hurtful.
“I was at my lowest point at that period because I hadn’t finished mourning Keshi. I cried like a baby because he was a father-figure to me.
“After I lost my dad, if there was anyone who would advise me about football and life, it was Amodu and a little bit of Augustine Eguavoen.”
Yobo caught the attention of national team selectors after an impressive outing at the 1999 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Despite making his senior international cap at a very tender age, he soon formed a fulcrum in the star-studded squad at that time – and he attributes that to coach Amodu’s inspiration and trust in him.
“He saw me come through the Super Eagles rank since 2001 and was very fond of me,” the ex-Everton defender added.
“Before our World Cup qualifier against Tunisia in 2009 where we played 0-0, I was left in Nigeria alongside John Utaka and Daniel Amokachi for some unpredicted reasons.
“It was almost certain that we may miss that game, but Amodu called and said what he was seeing was not looking good and that I had to do everything possible to make that game.
“And he assured that even if he missed that team’s last training I was going to play. That was the kind of confidence he had in me.
“I think I also played my best football under him. Enroute to qualifying for South Africa 2010 World Cup in 2008, I scored Nigeria’s only goals in our 1-0 away triumphs over Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea – and that was because of how he inspired me. Basically, he gave me the biggest inspiration.”
After serving Nigeria for over 13 years, winning one AFCON title and garnering a record 101 caps, he signed out with a testimonial which the late coach played an active role in.
“2016 was my testimonial and after my press conference, a lot of things happened. I was meant to call him a few days and discuss with him his itinerary in terms of transport and accommodation but I was caught up in the whole thing that was happening and he understood,” narrated Yobo.
“I was shocked when I got to the event and met him in the dressing room and he said to me ‘don’t worry about the Nigerian team, I’m here to take care of them. Go and worry about your visitors.’
“After the event, he returned to Benin and we agreed to meet two weeks after. It was the week that we were supposed to meet that he passed away.”
Amodu led Nigeria to a third-place finish at AFCON 2002 and it is worthy of note that he coached BCC Lions, El Kanemi Warriors, Shooting Stars and Orlando Pirates.