The Nigeria Football Federation on Saturday morning expressed sadness and sorrow at the death of Nigeria’s record goalscorer, Rashidi Yekini.
Yekini, who scored 37 goals in 58 appearances for the Senior National Team, Super Eagles, between 1983 and 1998, died after a brief illness in Oshogbo, Osun State on Friday. In London, United Kingdom for the launching of a Foundation by another former international, John Chukwudi Utaka which takes place on Sunday, NFF President Aminu Maigari was nonplussed: “What did you say? That Rashidi Yekini died? How did he die? Oh, this is very, very sad.”
By a mile the most outtstanding striker that Nigeria has ever produced, Yekini loomed large in 15 years of meritorious and unconditional service to fatherland, during which he won the African Cup of Nations gold, silver and bronze and played at two FIFA World Cup finals.
The country’s football family was thrown into tremendous shock as news filtered in on Friday evening about Yekini demise, as the man kept completely away from the searchlight and would only relate with only few persons, and therefore details of his sickness were shrouded in secrecy.
Nicknamed ‘Goalsfather’, the gangling one’s first major tournament for Nigeria was at the 1984 African Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire, and then played at the 1988, 1990, 1992 and 1994 finals, his five goals in the 1994 finals in Tunisia earning Nigeria the gold medal and trophy for only the second time.
His sterling all-round performance in 1993, which ensured Nigeria qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals for the first time, earned Yekini the African Footballer of the Year award in 1993. He was awarded the trophy inside the Hotel Abou Nawas, Tunis, on the margin of the Cup of Nations finals. It was the first time that CAF was organizing the awards, which had earlier been done by a French newspaper.
In 1994, Yekini became the first Nigerian to score at the FIFA World Cup finals, when he connected a pass from Finidi George to put Nigeria in front against Bulgaria inside the Cotton Bowl, Dallas, United States of America.
Yekini also played for Nigeria at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, during which he scored Nigeria’s only goal in the tournament – in the 1-3 loss to Yugoslavia.
The Nigeria Football Federation was represented at his burial in Ira, Kwara State on Saturday by Member of the Executive Committee, Barrister Olaleye Adepoju, Chairman of the Kwara State Football Association, Alhaji Busari Ishola, the Chairman of NFF Match Commissioners’ Appointment Committee and former Kwara FA Chairman, Chief Kunle Adesiyun and the Executive Secretary of Nigeria National League, Mr. Ayo Rahaman.