Tribute to Rashidi Yekini, The Gangling Striker
Eight years after his death and 22 years after his retirement from the Super Eagles, no player is yet to beat his goal-scoring record.
During the penalty-shoot of 1994 AFCON semi-final against Ivory Coast, Yekini was to take the last and decisive kick for Nigeria, the Ivorian officials who knew him, started packing to leave the pitch. They lost hope. The striker rightly scored the winner as Nigeria upstaged the defending champions to reach the final after a pulsating 2-2 draw in regulation and extra time.
A year earlier, Yekini had scored twice as Nigeria defeated Ivory Coast 4-1 at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos in a World Cup qualifier. Yekini also scored as Nigeria lost 2-1 in the first leg of the group stage in Abidjan.
The striker played for Africa Sports when he left Abiola Babes at the end of 1987 season. He was top scorer in the Nigerian league and helped Abiola Babes to FA Cup victory over Ranchers Bees of Kaduna in 1987.
His exploits at Africa Sports earned him a deal at modest Portuguese side Vitoria Setubal. He was well settled in Portugal that he emerged the top scorer for two consecutive seasons.
Some of his remarkable goals for Nigeria include a thunderbolt against Zaire (Now DR Congo) at Senegal 92 AFCON quarter final. A similar goal was scored against Zambia at the Semi- final of Algiers 90 AFCON.
Yekini became the first-ever Nigerian to score at the FIFA World Cup when he netted against Bulgaria in Super Eagles opening match which they won 3-0.
His 37 goals for the Super Eagles in 58 matches is still an unmatched record. His National team career began in 1983 to 1998.
Yekini was born in Kaduna, of Yoruba origin. After starting his professional career in the Nigerian league, he moved to Côte d’Ivoire to play for Africa Sports National, and from there he went to Portugal and Vitória de Setúbal where he experienced his most memorable years, eventually becoming the Primeira Liga‘s top scorer in the 1993–94 season after scoring 21 goals; the previous campaign he had netted a career-best 34 in 32 games to help the Sadinos promote from the second division, and those performances earned him the title of African Footballer of the Year once, the first ever for the nation.
In the summer of 1994, Yekini was bought by Olympiacos FC, but did not get along with teammates and left soon after. His career never really got back on track, not even upon a return to Setúbal which happened after another unassuming spell, in La Liga with Sporting de Gijón; he successively played with FC Zürich, Club Athlétique Bizertin and Al-Shabab Riyadh, before rejoining Africa Sports. In 2003, aged 39, he returned to the Nigerian championship with Julius Berger FC.
Scoring 37 goals for Nigeria in 58 appearances, Yekini was the national record goalscorer. He was part of the team that participated in the 1994 (where he netted Nigeria’s first-ever goal in a World Cup, in a 3–0 win against Bulgaria, his celebration after scoring, crying while holding the goal’s net, became one of the iconic images of the tournament) and the 1994 FIFA World Cups.
Additionally, Yekini helped the Super Eagles win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia where he also topped the goal charts and was named best player of the competition. He also participated at Olympic level in Seoul 1988.
Additional information from Wikipedia