The former Nigeria striker’s life is one that most people will never really understand as he lived in a manner different from what was expected of a man of great success
By Babajide Alaka
There is maybe nothing more to add to the legend of Rashidi Yekini, Nigeria’s greatest ever goal scorer, who sadly passed away on Friday at the age of 48.
The mechanic apprentice rose from the dusty fields of Kaduna to become the undisputed ‘goalsfather’ of the Green Eagles, the latter day Super Eagles. He was simply a superb striker of the ball.
I cannot recall Yekini ever missing a penalty kick, either for any of his clubs or for the national team. In penalty shoot-outs, he was always the man for the final fifth kick, which he always dispatched. He was simply dependable in scoring goals – he lived and breathed goals.
With no known wife, friends or acquaintances, the Ibadan-based star was not a very friendly person and his death will continue to raise many questions amongst his former colleagues as well as the majority of football fans.
I was a bit fortunate to share a pitch with him in the late 90s at the University of Ibadan where he usually came to play on Sundays when the European season was on break. My impression of him then was a man minding his own business.
From the type of car he drove to the way he responded to questions, jibes and all that, you quickly realised that the man was a recluse – football just exposed him. Where other footballers, not half as successful, were seen taking people out for drinks and frolicking with university girls, Yekini was not one to hang around once the football session was over.
|RASHIDI YEKINI'S MAJOR CAREER STATS
(1990 - 1994)
(1994 - 1995)
(1995 - 1996)
I vividly remember a time when he was mocked for being very stingy. He brought two balls for the Sunday session and left with both, even though the whole session was not over. He never really cared what people thought of him – he was always his own man.
After retiring from the game, he still trained in Ibadan every morning and his neighbours confirmed that the only times they ever saw him was when he went jogging in the morning and went to the mosque in the evening to pray.
So what happened to the 1993 African footballer of the year that he had no friends? Yekini played in eight countries including Nigeria and his career spanned over two decades so why did he not enjoy friendships with his fellow footballers? There were rumours that he suffered from a mental illness, which he finally succumbed to on Friday. It was also reported that he had taken to wandering the city of Ibadan barefoot at times in a delusional state.
These questions may never be answered but what we know of him will linger memorably – his goal against Bulgaria – the first ever Nigerian goal at the World Cup, and his performance against Ethiopia in Lagos in a World Cup qualifier amongst many others.
He was also the first major Nigerian player who returned from Europe to play in the local league. There are so many good things to remember ‘Yeking’ for but his death at 48 has raised so many questions concerning what transpired between when he retired in 2005 till the time of his death in 2012.
But whatever transpired in that 48-year sojourn on earth, Goal.com wishes that he is finally resting now.