Things Fans Will Never Forget About Rashidi Yekini
1. His Goal Record
If there was one striker Nigeria ever had who rarely disappointed, it was their former big Number 9, Rashidi Yekini.
He scored all shades of goals; headers, tap ins, long range efforts, acrobatic finishes, toe pokes, anything. If Yekini tried it, it would probably end up in the net three times out of four.
He was that good.
Rashidi made the great goals look easy and he packed a tonne in his shot.
He found the net with frightening ease for club and country. Nations Cup Qualifiers, World Cup Qualifiers, Nations Cup Finals, friendly games, even the World Cup Finals, Yekini did not discriminate, he just planted the ball at the back of the net.
By the end of his career, he had banged in 37 goals in just 58 appearances. Almost two decades after retiring from international football, it’s still the national record.
2. His Shot
There were fewer players who could strike the ball as powerfully as Rashidi Yekini.
He packed a potent punch.
The Gabon goaltender in Nigeria’s 1994 African Nations Cup Championships opener testified to that among many others who have had the misfortune of playing against Nigeria’s Number 9.
Yekini trusted his shot very much. There were times when he’d jump very high and instead of heading the ball goalwards, Rashidi would chest it down to eventually nail the goalkeeper.
Countless times he was successful.
3. His Award
Prior to the historical year 1994, Rashidi had terrorised African defences for club and country.
The continent watched in awe as his raw power, his pace and his natural goalscoring instincts quickly endeared him to many football fans.
They could deny it no more.
In 1993, Rashidi Yekini was voted and crowned the African Player Of The Year. He was the first Nigerian to win the award, inspiring the likes of Emmanuel Amuneke, Victor Ikpeba and Nwankwo Kanu to the achievement later that decade.
4. His Tournament
Rashidi Yekini featured for Nigeria at three nations cup and two world cup tournaments.
One particularly memorable one was at the 1994 Nations Cup Championship in Tunisia. Rashidi helped Nigeria’s Super Eagles win the tournament, 14 years after their last victory.
He topped the goal charts with five goals, many of them decisive and match winners.
He was eventually named Best Player of the Tournament.
5. His World Cup Goal
Rashidi Yekini almost single-handedly qualified Nigeria for her first ever World Cup in 1994.
During the qualifiers, he scored all the decisive goals short of one in Algiers against Algeria when George Finidi helped out.
Of all the goals Yekini had scored for Nigeria, the one he would be forever remembered for came at the World Cup proper.
Nigeria, in her first game, faced one of the tournament’s heavyweights, a Hristo Stoichkov-led Bulgaria. Many predicted a whitewash for the World Cup newcomers.
But Nigeria would have none of it. Rashidi scored, his and Nigeria’s first ever goal at the World Cup, enroute to a three-nil defeat of Bulgaria. Rashidi Yekini celebrated the goal by holding the Bulgarian net, shaking it and crying.
It became one of the iconic moment of the World Cup.
6. His Journey Home
Yekini was one of the first Nigerian players to take their trade beyond the shores of their fatherland.
Having first made himself a fearsome name in the local league with Shooting Stars of Ibadan, Rashidi joined Africa Sports in Cote d‘ivoire. But it was in Portugal with Vitoria Setubal where he amassed an amazing 90 goals in 108 appearances that he made a loud statement in Europe.
Later sojourns in Turkey, Spain, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia followed.
Yekini would later return to the local league where it all started for him. After a brief spell each with Julius Berger FC and Gateway FC, Rashidi Yekini retired from the game that had brought him fame and admiration.
He lived in Ibadan until his death in 2012.