It’s been eight years since the passing away of one Africa’s biggest goal poacher, Rashidi Yekini, who died on the 4th of May, 2002 in a mysterious manner.
The mystery behind his death until today has not been unravelled and while the focus of this article is not to explain the mystery and circumstances behind his death, but is to establish those moments that really defined his career and made his memory cast forever in the minds of Nigerians and Africans as a whole.
8. Highest goal scorer in Portuguese League
After conquering the Nigeria League and Cote d’Ivoire with his goals and needed to conquer new grounds, Portugal beckoned him where he joined Victoria Setubal in which he played between 1990 and 1994.
He did not only conquer Setubal by qualifying the club from the second tier of the Portuguese Liga to the premiere Liga and he did by scoring 34 goals in 32 games.
He did step things up in the top flight league, he conquered Portugal by emerging the highest goal scorer of the league in the 1993/1994 season with 21 goals — the fourth African to become the highest goal scorer in the Portuguese league.
7. The first Nigerian to win the Africa Footballer of the Year
The award has been elusive to Nigerians since its inception but Yekini was awarded it in 1993 to become the first Nigerian to win the award.
His exploits opened the door for the other Nigerians to dominate the award in the 90s, as Emmanuel Amuneke won the award in 1994, Victor Ikpeba in 1995 and Kanu Nwankwo in 1996 and 1999.
6. Won highest goalscorer award in two consecutive AFCONs
He scored 12 goals in to consecutive Africa Cup of Nations between 1990 and 1994 and was the first runner-up in 1990 and won the awards in 1992 and 1994 where his goals helped Nigeria to win silver bronze in Algiers 1990 and Dakar Senegal in 1992 before helping Nigeria to win the cup in 1994 in Tunis.
5. Scored 8 goals in for Nigeria en route USA 94
Rashidi Yekini was reliable and trusted Nigeria centre forward during the USA 94 qualifiers and he never disappointed.
He scored a total of 8 goals during the qualifiers to emerge as Africa’s highest goal scorer during the qualifier and joint third throughout the world across the qualifiers en route the 1994 World cup.
His goals ferried Nigeria to their first FIFA World Cup ever in 1994 and he was the goals messiah Nigeria needed to end the Super Eagles’ 34 years after independence to play at the World Cup despite the huge deposits of talent in the land.
4. First Nigerian to score at the World Cup
Rashidi Yekini was the first Nigeria to score a World Cup goal. Perhaps for his hard work and dedication to the Super Eagles, and having scored so many goals for the team before the World Cup, nature rewarded him with that ‘title’ to permanently register his name in FIFA World Cup record book, as the record is unbreakable.
Nigeria faced Bulgaria in her first-ever World Cup, a nice build-up from the right-wing after a beautiful interchange of passes through the middle, found him well-positioned face to face with an empty net for a simple tap in.
The Super Eagles won by 3-0 and the Yekini iconic net hugging celebration of the first goal scored at the World made it a memory to keep as iconic.
3. Nigeria highest goal scorer at the Africa Cup of Nations
Rashidi Yekini ensured he left his mark every competition he attended and the Africa Cup of Nations was one of the favourite competition.
He attended four AFCONs, in which he scored 13 goals in all to become the third all-time highest goal scorer in the competition behind Laurent Pokou of Cote d’Ivoire (14 goals) and Samuel Eto’o (18).
The 13 goals were enough to make him Nigeria’s highest goalscorer in the competition at least for now.
He scored no goal at the 1984 edition in Libya and scored only one in Morocco 88, three in Algiers 90, four in Senegal 92 and he finished it up with five goals at Tunisia 94.
2. He scored over 90 goals for a single club
He played for 114 times for Victoria Setubal between 1990 and 1994, scoring a total of 91 goals across all competition to make him the greatest legend of the modest Portuguese club thus made him the first Nigeria to score over 90 goals for a single club.
No wonder he was more than a cult hero among Setubal faithfuls.
1. Nigeria all-time highest goalscorer
In Just 58 appearances, he scored a massive 37 times for the Super Eagles to emerge as the greatest Nigeria goalscorer of all time.
He played his last game for the Super Eagles against Paraguay in France 98, 12 years ago and the record is still standing.
These heavyweight records and achievements are almost unattainable by any Nigerian footballer while we may see players that might want to attempt breaking them, two of his achievements are unbreakable.
Since his demise, the nation has witnessed a lot of wannabes often labelled the ‘new Yekini’ by the media but all fizzled out neither achieving their potential nor got anywhere near the achievements of Rashidi.
Nigeria needs a goal poacher like Rashidi Yekini if the country wants to achieve the greatness it achieved in the 90s as that moment remained Nigeria’s best time in football.
The Super Eagles were named the second most entertaining team at the World Cup and were ranked the fifth-best team in the world, after the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994.
Rashidi played a prominent role during the golden era, especially with his goals. He bagged so many nicknames from the media ranging from the Gangling, Goals Father, Yeking, Goals King, and many more among the fans.
As the search for the new Rashidi Yekini goes on, the legend rests. Adieu.