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Rashidi Yekini, Three Years After

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By Tosin Omojola

When on May 4, 2012, precisely three years ago, news filtered in that former Green Eagles goal king Rashidi Yekini had passed  on, many found it hard initially to believe.

Soccer followers found it hard to believe that the greatest striker to have come out of Nigeria was no more.  But that was the fact,  death had sneaked in and had taken the gangling striker away.

Monday, May 4, 2015 made it three years that Yekini bade farewell to  this world, dying in circumstances surrounded by controversies.

During his playing days both for clubs and country, Yekini was a terror to defenders and goalkeepers.

You dare not allow him to leap beyond you, never allow him to control the ball with his chest and don’t ever give him that slightest chance to take a shot.

Once the gangling gets a chance to do all these, then goalkeepers should be ready to retrieve the ball from the back of their nets while he would be ready to stand up to celebrate.

Ever since he quit the international scene,  Nigeria has yet to produce another striker in his mould as the like of Julius Aghahowa, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Obafemi Martins and lately Emmanuel Emenike have only managed to make impacts only to fade away soon.

The Man Rashidi Yekini

Rashidi Yekini, the late Nigerian footballer, was born on October 23, 1963.

His Professional Career

His professional career, which spanned more than two decades, was mainly associated with Vitória de Setúbal in Portugal, but he also played in six other countries his own notwithstanding.

Yekini scored 37 goals as a Nigerian international, and represented the nation in five major tournaments, including two World Cups where he scored the country’s first-ever goal in the competition. He was also named the African Footballer of the Year in 1993.

Club Career

Yekini was born in Kaduna. After starting his professional career in the Nigerian league, he moved to Côte d’Ivoire to play for Africa Sports National, and from there he went to Portugal and Vitória de Setúbal where he experienced his most memorable years, eventually becoming the first division’s top scorer in the 1993–94 season after scoring 21 goals; the previous campaign he had netted a career-best 34 in 32 games to help the Sadinos promote from the second level, and those performances earned him the title of African Footballer of the Year once, the first ever from the nation.

In the 1994 summer, Yekini was bought by Olympiacos FC, but did not get along with teammates and left. His career never really got back on track, not even upon a return to Setúbal, which happened after another unassuming spell, in La Liga with Sporting de Gijón; he successively played with FC Zürich, Club Athlétique Bizertin and Al-Shabab Riyadh, before rejoining Africa Sports. In 2003, at 39, he returned to the Nigerian championship with Julius Berger FC.

In 2005, 41-year-old Yekini made a short comeback, moving alongside former national teammate Mobi Oparaku to Gateway United FC.

International Career

Scoring 37 goals for Nigeria in 58 appearances, Yekini was the national record goal scorer. He was part of the team that participated in the 1994 (where he netted Nigeria’s first-ever goal in a World Cup, in a 3–0 win against Bulgaria. His celebration after scoring, crying while holding the goal’s net, became one of the iconic images of the tournament and the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

Additionally, Yekini helped the Super Eagles win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations where he also topped the goal chart and was named best player of the competition. He also participated at Olympic level in Seoul 1988.

His Death

Yekini was reported to be ill for an extended period of time. In 2011, the news media in Nigeria began issuing reports of his failing health, and he was said to have suffered from bipolar disorder, depression and some other undisclosed psychiatric condition. He died in Ibadan on May 4, 2012 at the age of only 48, he was buried at his residence in Ira, Kwara State.

 Federal Govt Honour, Timely or Belated?

Recently, the Federal Government, in appreciation of what he did for the country, named a street in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) after the late goal ador, three years after his demise.

To many, the decision to honour him now was belated but others argued, it is good that he was even remembered.

On the other hand, some school of thought says naming of a street after the great goal king was too small when one considers the honour he brought to the country, but another school of thought would definitely argue that it is better than nothing.

That the Federal Government even honoured him is commendable, the question is what has his state of origin Kwara State done for him, only naming after him a street which could hardly be seen.

What about the Oyo State Government, owners of the club that enjoyed the most of the late striker’s talent, Shooting Stars, as well as the football administrators, particularly the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)? What did both of them do to honour Yekini?

This is an issue for another day, but for now, rest on Rashidi Yekini, the king of goals.

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