7th May, 2012
Nigeria’s sports circle, especially the football fraternity, was last Friday thrown into mourning with the shocking news of the demise of former Super Eagles goal poacher, Rashidi Yekini at the age of 49. The gangling Yekini, who was buried on Saturday at his home town in Ira, Offa, Kwara State, Nigeria, reportedly died of acute depression resulting from many factors. Before his death at a private hospital in Ibadan, the 1993 African Footballer of the Year was said to have suffered from brain disorder and other neuro-related ailments without receiving adequate medical attention due to financial constraints.
It was further gathered that Yekini, Nigeria’s all-time record goal scorer who netted 37 goals in 58 matches for the Eagles, lost his mind because he was allegedly abandoned by his family and the entire country, which he served so well during his active days as a footballer.
His neighbours at Ring Road in Ibadan, alleged that Yekini got a raw deal from his family members and that relevant authorities have to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death. They claimed that Yekini’s family brutalised him, and with the assistance of two Alfas, forcefully chained and bundled him out of his house for spiritual cleansing of his ailment during the Easter period this year.
But his devastated mother, Alhaja Sakiratu Yekini, denied the widespread outcry that her son was left alone during his trying moments. Alhaja Sakirat said the demise of Yekini was even a burden too heavy to bear. She confirmed that her son had been battling mental illness since 2010. The septuagenarian claimed that several attempts made to treat the former Eagles’ striker proved abortive as the deceased consistently claimed he was mentally sound. Despite the circumstances surrounding his death, we believe that Yekini, who was born in Kaduna on 23 October, 1963, deserved a better attention than he got before his death. We are of the opinion that Yekini was abandoned for too long by the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, and the Federal Government.
Sadly, the legendary striker died without getting the house which the Nigerian government promised him and other Eagles for winning the Tunisia ‘94 African Cup of Nations about 20 years ago. Although some of his former teammates like Sunday Oliseh, Ike Shorunmu, Emmanuel Amuneke and Mutiu Adepoju to mention just a few, have been paying glowing tributes to the late goal king, we view their eulogies as mere shedding of crocodile tears, as they also abandoned Yekini when he needed them the most.
For us and millions of football loving Nigerians, Yekini will be remembered for his iconic goal celebration after scoring Nigeria’s first-ever World Cup goal against Bulgaria at the USA ’94 FIFA World Cup. We recall how Yekini latched on to a cross from Finidi George to score for Nigeria at the World Cup that year, prompting him to run into the goal post, grab the net, and shake it endlessly while screaming “Rashidi Yekini! Nigeria!” to the high heavens in celebration of what was a historic goal for the country’s football. Yekini began his career at UNTL Kaduna in 1981 before he was discovered by former Eagles’ technical adviser, Clemens Westerhof. He played for Africa Sports of Cote d’Ivoire, and 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 played in Greece, Spain, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia before eventually ending 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 of Abeokuta 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 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 became the first Nigerian to win the African Player of the Year award, providing the Eagles fans with hope that Nigerian football had much to offer.
We believe that Yekini was 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.
We believe that his untimely demise speaks volumes about the poor administration of sports in the country. We join millions of football lovers across the world to mourn Yekini, who is survived by three wives, three children and his aged mother.
Adieu, the Goal King