Sport

Ten Years After: Goal King Rashidi Yekini Lives on

May 4, 2012, Nigeria was plunged into mourning as news emerged that former African Footballer of the year, Rashidi Yekini is dead. 

Rashidi Yekini shot into limelight in the early eighties, in 1983, to be precise, while he plied his trade, though as an amateur soccer player with UNTL Club, Kaduna at the age of 17.

He did so well that he was spotted by the then Nigerian top club: the IICC Shooting Stars Football Club of Ibadan.

Under impulse of their late mentor, Chief Lekan Salami, the young, gangling, dangling, raw talented of a striker, Rashidi Yekini, was recruited by the club.

At IICC, Rashidi Yekini, continued exhibiting his goal scoring prowess, which caught the attention of Super Eagles’ selectors, Rashidi Yekini, was subsequently invited to the super eagles, and immediately made his mark, even as a raw talent.

In a friendly match against the IICC Shooting Stars Football Club, the young Rashidi Yekini scored two of the three Super Eagles’ goals.

 At the end of proceedings, Chief Lekan Salami gave his impressions of the friendly thus: “Today, IICC killed IICC.”

At a time, the Super Eagles under the coaching guidance of Chief Festus Adegboye Onigbinde could make do with more fire power upfront, considering the spate of scoreless draws that characterized most of their matches, the young and impressionable yekini, was certainly attractive to the coach Onigbinde-led technical crew.

 At the 1984 nations’ cup tournament, in Ivory Coast, the young, striker: Rashidi Yekini, made his debut for the Super Eagles, in a big tournament,

 though he did not make much of an impact, as he still lacked some basics of the game. 

Rashidi yekini, from then onwards, became a constant feature in the Super Eagles’ regular offensive line up under subsequent Super Eagles coaches, except under Coach Paul Hamilton, who preferred his Flying Eagles ‘pupil, ’Samson Sia Sia, as centre- forward.

Rashidi yekini, profiled himself creditably at major football tournaments for both club sides and the national team, the super eagles, and was subsequently rewarded with the honour of African Footballer of the Year in 1993. 

He became the second Nigerian ever to win this award: the first being the legendary goalkeeper, Emmanuel Okala .

Rashidi yekini represented Nigeria at the 1998 World Cup tournament in France before calling it quits with international football after a fifteen year stint with the Super Eagles.

He played professional football with ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast, Victoria Setubal of Portugal, AEK Athens of Greece and Grasshoppers Football Club, Switzerland before returning to Nigeria, where he formally retired after a brief stint with a local club side.

Yekini, who died at the age of 48 remains Nigeria’s greatest and most prolific marksman. No-one has even come close to matching his impressive haul of 37 goals from just 58 appearances.

His mysterious death added a tragic final chapter to Yekini’s story, his hallowed place in Nigerian football folklore had long since been secured. Ten years on, the Super Eagles’ goals-father remains a revered figure throughout Nigeria, Africa and beyond. 

Till this moment, the true reason behind the heartbreaking demise of Rashidi Yekini is not known as there were claims that his family members took him to an unknown place for treatment. 

Few months ago, Rashidi Yekini’s mother said that her late son was ill which forced them to seek for herbal help. 

Sadly, Rashidi Yekini’s two siblings, Rafiat and Akeem, who knew where the late footballer was taken to have also passed on. 

Rashidi yekini died leaving two daughters behind, and both have graduated from the universities. 

According to the President, Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, Amaju Pinnick, Rashidi Yekini would forever be missed.

Pinnick described yekini as a goal getter, dedicated player and a patriotic soldier. 

It is expected that the nation’s football federation will come up with a foundation in honour of the late gangling and greatest goal scorer of Nigerian football.

Olaolu Fawole

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