Side Kick

5 Years After Death: Legendary Yekini lives on


The remains of Rashidi Yekini may have been lowered six feet from earth surface about five years ago but those of us who watched him led the attack of the Super Eagles can never forget the 37 goals he scored for the team.
Even football faithful yet to be born when Yekini played his last match for the national team in 1998, have the knowledge that the former Victoria Setubal player scored Nigeria’s first ever World Cup goal, 23 years ago in the United States.
The goal which came in the 3-0 defeat of Bulgaria was followed with an iconic celebration by the striker.
Had he lived, the legendary forward would have celebrated his 54th birthday on Monday, alas he died in his Ibadan home under mysterious circumstances.
Yekini’s goals gave millions of football aficionado joy but the naturally gifted goal poacher has remained unsung in the country he put on the world football map.
At the height of his career, the goal king or gangling Yekini (as he was fondly called by fans) was one of the deadliest finishers in the game.
Aside playing for about nine different clubs in Africa, Europe and Asia, Yekini, who hailed from Ira in Oyun Local Government Area of Kwara State, was decorated the African Footballer of the Year in 1993.
Yekini also featured at the 1998 World Cup and his goals won Nigeria the 1994 African Nations Cup in Tunisia.
He is still remembered at Portuguese club Vitoria Setubal, where he scored goals for fun in two spells – 1990-1994 and 1997.
His other foreign clubs included Africa Sports (Cote d’Ivoire), Olympiacos (Greece), Sporting Gijon (Spain), FC Zurich (Switzerland) and a club in Saudi Arabia.
Yekini’s humility was underlined when he returned to play in the domestic league with Gateway FC in 2005.
To keep the memory of the striker alive, Rashidi Yekini Foundation was launched three years ago to assist the less privileged and to consistently reward the top scorer in the local league.
Former Warri Wolves striker, Gbolahan Salami was the first recipient of the award after he emerged the top scorer in the domestic league three seasons ago.
The latest beneficiary of the award is Lobi Stars forward, Anthony Okpotu, who was honoured at the Adamasingba Stadium, Ibadan, at the weekend.
Yekini’s daughter, Yemisi, presented Okpotu with the ‘Goal king’ Award and a cheque of N100, 000 for his feat as the highest goal scorer with 19 goals at the just concluded Nigeria Professional Football League.
As a true son and ambassador of Kwara State, I expect the state government to name either the Ilorin Township Stadium or the Ilorin International Airport or a section of the facility after Yekini. Even in death, Yekini has a special place in the hearts of football fans world over.
He was recently celebrated by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA.
I am proud to have seen the legendary Yekini score goals for the Super Eagles and I doubt if the nation will ever have another prolific striker in the cast of the former Julius Berger star.
Sleep on Ye-King!

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