It is very rare to see a Nigerian footballer getting global attention in the senior cadre. Most of the goodies recorded by the country were in the youth level. We recall the country’s U-17 team holds the best record in the FIFA World Cup with five wins, Nigeria has won silver twice at FIFA U-20 World Cup while the country has also won gold, silver and bronze at the U-23 Olympic Games level.
We are however aware of the few exceptions. Austin Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu and late Stephen Keshi were some of the former players with global attention. Today, Winfred Ndidi, Victor Oshimen, Samuel Chukwueze are some of the players receiving global attention. It was, however, great that a former Super Eagles striker, Rashidi Yekini, was in the news in recent time just like in his playing days. Yekini died on May 4, 2012 in Ibadan, Oyo State and only last week, the world paid glowing tributes to the football great.
All through so far in May, his memories enveloped the entire football community and for followers of the game in Nigeria, it was pleasant to note that FIFA and some exfootballers outside the country eulogized the player even eight years after.
We recall that Yekini was a delight to watch in his playing days. He was not much of a dribbler but he had speed, positioning and mental alertness. He could score with both his right and left feet and could also make use of his head averagely well.
He was a big threat to defenders all over the continent because he made use of his stature to intimidate defenders. In his days, he was a sure starter in the line-up and also certain to deliver goodies for the team.
His tap-in goal against Bulgaria in Nigeria’s first World Cup match was heroic especially with the celebration. His dramatic celebration at the USA ’94 World Cup saw him shook the net after his goal.
The world football ruling body in the world, FIFA, stressed that the goal was one of the most iconic goal jubilations in the tournament’s history. “Rasheed Yekini produced one of the most iconic celebrations in #World- Cup history after scoring the @NGSuperEagles’ first-ever goal in the competition,” said the football body.
Africa sadly lost one of its greatest-ever players but this legend will live on eternally,” FIFA wrote on its Twitter handle. The NFF also said: “We remember one of the World’s most feared strikers of his time, Rashidi Yekini, who passed on to glory on this day (May 4) in 2012. May his soul continue to Rest In Peace.”
A former Eagles midfielder, Mutiu Adepoju, also noted that the late striker rescued Eagles out of difficult situations on many occasions. “Whenever we seem down and defeated, Yekini will always conjure goals with his magic wand and get us out of trouble with your goals,” he wrote.
“There was never a dull moment with you in camp as everyone’s ribs would be cracked at your jokes. You were created to score goals and your class remains unmatched!” Interestingly, former Ghana defender, Antony Baffoe, also on Twitter said: “One of Africa’s most terrific strikers Rashidi Yekini marks his 8th year of leaving us. Continue to rest in peace Rashidi.” We make bold to say that even in death, followers of the beautiful game in Nigeria should be proud of Yekini, a former African Footballer of the Year.
The world celebrated the goal king whose number of goals is yet to be matched in the national team. For the records, no Super Eagles player has matched his 37 goal tally in 58 matches recorded within his 14-year career in the senior national team. Today, we are aware the country is still looking for another Yekini.
There was a Chrisantus Marcaulay, who showed promise due to his exploits in the U-17 team the Golden Eaglets but it did not happen. Emmanuel Emenike, Odion Ighalo, Victor Agali, Jonathan Akpoborie and a host of others played the top 9 role for the Eagles but were never as prolific as the gangling striker. We hereby charge the current Eagles stars to imbibe the hardwork, dedication and commitment of late Yekini in his playing days.
FIFA’s tribute to the late striker was enough to show that Yekini brought joy to the world with his amazing talent. Yekini’s good image looms large even in death and it is a testimony to the fact that hardwork pays. For over 20 years, no Nigerian has won the Africa Footballer of the Year award which Yekini emerged the first Nigerian to clinch. Today’s Eagles should be happy with the way the world celebrated Yekini eight years after his death. They should strive to achieve same acceptance globally.
There should be a deliberate attempt by the players to play in top football clubs, raise their game to get starting roles and command global respect in their active days and after retirement. We join the global football community in paying tribute to the late gangling striker, eight years after his death. His amazing legacy lingers on as the country continues the search for a striker like him in the modern day football.