The Nigeria striker died four years ago, his legacy lives on in the history books but we must do more to preserve his memory
It was four years ago today, on May 4, 2012, that Nigeria’s greatest striker died. Rashidi Yekini was the epitome of class on the field. He scored 37 goals in 58 appearances for the Super Eagles and led Nigeria to victory at the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations.
Yekini’s legacy also extended to the global stage where he scored Nigeria’s first ever goal at the World Cup in that 3-0 defeat of Bulgaria at USA ’94. His iconic goal celebration was listed among Goal’s Goal’s Top 50 most memorable World Cup celebrations of all time in 2010.
Since he died in very sad conditions four years ago, attempts have been made at preserving his legacy. A couple of streets have been named after him in Ilorin and Abuja while the Nigeria Professional Football League has named the top scorer award in the domestic season after him.
However, we can do more. Isn’t it time that the Federal Government paid homage to the memory of this great Nigerian who broke all records in service to the flag?
Since Yekini’s last game for the Super Eagles, no Nigerian striker has reached the level of grace he achieved in the country’s colours.
Many have called for one of the national stadiums to be named in his honour. It is a good call. What are we waiting for?
We claim to love the game so much but find it hard to honour the legacy of our past heroes. In Brazil, the national stadium in Brasilia, the capital, is named after a former footballer, Mane Garrincha (Manuel Francisco dos Santos).
For a man who gave his youth to his country and was the first Nigerian to be named African Footballer of the Year in 1993, Yekini deserves commensurate honour from his country.
As a young boy growing up in the ‘90s, this writer remembers Yekini for making football easy to watch. When Yekini was on the pitch, one was sure that the Super Eagles were capable of winning matches, home and away. He thrived in both the small and big matches and always made his impact felt with opposing defenders and goalkeepers.
Nigeria’s run to the Afcon title in 1994 was carried on his huge shoulders as he scored in key moments to lead the Eagles to the final where Emmanuel Amuneke then scored the brace that ensured the trophy was won.
This writer proposes that a befitting sporting monument be named after Rashidi Yekini as a way of preserving his memory and keeping his legacy alive in the hearts of the future generations of this great country.
We must never forget Rashidi Yekini.
|Date of birth||23 October 1963|
|Place of birth||Kaduna, Nigeria|
|Date of death||4 May 2012 (aged 48)|
|Place of death||Ibadan, Nigeria|
|Height||1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.|
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[edit source]
Yekini was born in Kaduna, of Yoruba origin. 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 Primeira Liga‘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 division, and those performances earned him the title of African Footballer of the Year once, the first ever for the nation.
In the summer of 1994, Yekini was bought by Olympiacos FC, but did not get along with teammates and left soon after. 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, aged 39, he returned to the Nigerian championship with Julius Berger FC.
International career[edit source]
Scoring 37 goals for Nigeria in 58 appearances, Yekini was the national record goalscorer. 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 Cups.
Additionally, Yekini helped the Super Eagles win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations where he also topped the goal charts and was named best player of the competition. He also participated at Olympic level in Seoul 1988.