At the SBC Digital Summit Africa SBC’s Managing Director Andrew McCarron interviewed Premier League legend Yakubu Ayegbeni on his career highlights and his new role as an ambassador for gambling brand Interwetten.
In his decorated career the former striker enjoyed spells at Blackburn Rovers, Everton, Leicester City, Middlesbrough, Portsmouth, Super Eagles and clubs in China and Turkey.
Reflecting on his career highlights, Yakubu spoke of his move from Nigeria to Israel to play for Maccabi Haifa, stating how challenging the move was due to the lack of team members who spoke English: “It was quite tough when you come into a dressing room and no one speaks English, it’s so difficult to communicate. When it comes to football I tried quick to learn how to say ‘pass the ball to me’, ‘leave the ball to me’, small details about communication on the pitch then you’ll be fine.
“When you go to a foreign country where they don’t speak the language, you need to understand the small details on the pitch, when you understand the small details on the pitch, you’ll be fine.”
Signed to Portsmouth in 2003, Yakubu talked of his time at the club and his relationship with the then manager, Harry Redknapp: “Moving from there (Maccabi Haifa) to Portsmouth it was unbelievable. To play for one of the best leagues in the world, that was a dream. I’m speaking to you now, I miss Portsmouth already.”
“Harry is still one of the best managers I have ever worked with. We still speak sometimes, a sentence, a message. He’s a great guy, Harry made you believe you can become a bigger player. I remember when we played against Arsenal and he said don’t worry just go there and destroy them I’m telling you. With 10% more from him, he gives you more confidence.”
When asked on how important football is to Nigeria, Yakubu emphasised: ‘It’s huge in the country. Everyone wants their kids to play football. It’s really good. When there is no football everyone is going crazy. They always think about problems and stuff like that but when it comes to football they forget about the stuff they are doing and focus on football to watch. Nigeria is really crazy about football.”
Addressing the betting industry, Yakubu detailed why Nigeria is a strong place for sports betting to blossom: “I remember when I came to Nigeria I went downstairs to my kitchen, I saw my cook, he was on his phone, I was like ‘what are you doing?’ He explains it’s not a game, he’s betting, football. Everyone in Nigeria they all love football, they all love to do stuff like that you know.
“Hopefully next year we can go over there to meet the Nigeria people. Planning to have small games to bring people together. To play and to enjoy it is all about giving back to these people. They want to see people who are doing this stuff. It would be great to go back there with small games and listen Interwetten stuff to make it bigger and bigger in Nigeria.”
In regards to his partnership with Interwetten, Yakubu spoke of his belief in the business: “For me to choose to work with Interwetten, they are reliable. I’ve checked their record, their record is clear. Just like me, my record is clear. They have been there for 30 years, I’m happy to be with them as an ambassador, to promote the business and the company, I think there is nothing to worry about. I wish them the best of luck for whatever they wish to do in Nigeria and all around the world. I know it has not been easy with this Covid stuff, I hope we will get our lives back.”
You can watch the full interview here.