Former national team skipper, Joseph Yobo, has revealed how Taiye Taiwo brought aura into the Super Eagles.
After an impressive outing with Nigeria at the 2005 U20 Fifa World Cup in the Netherlands – where he was named third-best player, the left-back was drafted into the senior national team under coach Augustine Eguavoen.
Taiwo became an instant hit in the Super Eagles side thanks to his strength and speed as his influence grew. One of his highlights was his unstoppable freekick which handed Nigeria a 1-0 win over Ghana on his Africa Cup of Nations debut in 2006.
In a chat with Goal, Yobo disclosed that he had a good relationship with everyone in the squads he played in, but was not shy from admitting the impression made by the sturdy defender.
“Everybody in the national team were my friend because I started very early and also became a leader early as well. So I wrapped my hands around everybody and enjoyed every moment in the Super Eagles,” Gernot Rohr’s assistant told Goal.
“In pure honesty, one person who caught my fancy when he came to the national team was Taiye Taiwo.
“I watched him play for Nigeria U20. At that level, I loved his shots and how he was playing aggressively; I couldn’t help but wait for the time he would graduate to the senior national team.
“And that came through for him when he made his Super Eagles debut. He is such a happy and loveable guy.”
Yobo left Olympique Marseille in 2003, while his compatriot was signed for the French outfit two years later – and that reinforced their relationship when on national duty.
For the Everton legend, Taiwo was an epitome of optimism and courage, and was staggered why Nigerians don’t talk about him despite his contributions.
“We had a good relationship because his manager was one of my very good friends, so we had that bond in the national team and grew really fast. His presence was enormous,” he continued.
“Even when I am thinking about the game as captain, he would come with his energy and tell me ‘skippo’ [captain], no shaking, don’t worry, we are going to beat these people’. For me, Taiwo brought a whole lot to the national team.
“One thing I tell people is that football is about team spirit and that is very important. When I have him by my side, I feel confident because he had everything. That’s how good he was.
“I knew he was growing and still needed some works but on his day, he could win you a game whether by his free-kick, pass or running forward.
“I’m surprised people don’t talk about him maybe because he is underrated, but I rate him very high because of his quality and the aura he brought to the Super Eagles.”