Monday, May 7, 2012

Nigerian football Legend Rashidi Yekini - Dead at 48

Remembered by many for his exploits at the 1994 World Cup in the USA, Rashidi Yekini will forever have a place in the hearts and minds of Super Eagles and other football fans following Nigeria's first ever goal in the tournament, 

The former Nigeria international passed away on Friday in Ibadan after suffering from mental illness for the past two years.


The ex-striker, who was only 48, is Nigeria's all-time record goalscorer after netting 37 times in 58 matches for the Super Eagles.

His body will be taken to Offa to be buried, Yekini's home town in Kwara State.

Born in Kaduna on October 23, 1963, Yekini will be famously remembered for his iconic goal celebration after scoring Nigeria's first-ever World Cup goal against Bulgaria in the 1994 edition of the competition in the USA.

He latched on to a cross from Finidi George to score the first ever goal for Nigeria at the World Cup, prompting Yekini to run into the goal post, grabbing the net, and shaking it endlessly while screaming to the high heavens in celebration of what would be an iconic goal for the country's football.

Yekini began his career at UNTL Kaduna in 1981 before spending the next nine years in his native Africa. Yekini then moved to Europe, where he enjoyed a successful four-year spell at Vitoria Setubal in Portugal where he was the Primeira Liga's top scorer in the 1993-94 season.

He later enjoyed playing in Greece, Spain, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia before eventually calling time on his playing career in 2003 with Nigerian club, Julius Berger.

Yekini made a brief turnaround on his retirement in 2005, when at 41 years old, he joined Gateway United for a short spell.

A player who was a pioneer for Nigerian football in many ways, his time in Europe opened doors for many players that followed behind him, and he was a role model for many, including players who would have been considered among his peers at the time.

Yekini not only scored Nigeria's first World Cup goal, he also become the first Nigerian to win the African Player of the Year award in 1993, providing Super Eagles fans with hope that Nigerian football had much to offer and would be a force on the continent in the year to follow.

He added to that achievement and realised that prophecy of success by helping Nigeria to win the Africa Cup of Nations title in 1994. Yekini scored five goals to win the top scorer award at that tournament, and is the only player to have won the Afcon title as a reigning African Player of the Year ever since.

His record-breaking antics will go down in history at a time when Nigeria enjoyed perhaps their best generation thus far.

Truly one of the greats in Nigerian football, off the pitch he was a quiet man and did little to mirror the great stature and power he commanded on a football field. A goal scorer of great technique and a calm touch in front of goal, Yekini is the kind of player that modern footballers should aspire to emulate.

The man was well respected by the fans, his peers and authorities, and his passing will be mourned by many in Nigeria and around the world.


Related stories: Rashidi Yekini's mother says her son had been suffering from mental illness since 2010

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Former Super Eagle Uche Okafor Was Murdered - FBI 


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