We have just received reports about the death of one of Nigeria’s greatest footballers, Rashidi Yekini (aged 48). He is said to have passed away few hours ago in after a long illness. He will be buried in his native Kwara State on Saturday (the 5th of May 2012), according to Islamic customs. He is survived by three wives and children.
Yekini scored 37 goals in 58 appearances for Nigeria. The prolific striker played a key role in some of Nigeria’s greatest football moments; he scored Nigeria’s first ever goal at the World Cup, against Bulgaria at USA ’94, and led the way as Nigeria won the Africa Cup of Nations in the same year. He was also a prolific goalscorer in club football – seeing huge success with Shooting Stars of Nigeria, Ivory Coast’s Africa Sport and Vitoria Setubal of Portugal, amongst others. Yekini began his career with UNTL FC in Kaduna in northern Nigeria before moving to Shooting Stars, whom he helped to reach the final of the then African Champions Cup in 1984. That was the same year in which he made his debut for Nigeria – and he was still playing for his country 12 years later, at the World Cup in France in 1998.
The moment that took him to global fame came at the World Cup in the United States, when he scored that goal against Bulgaria. The strike itself was important enough, but the manner of his celebration, grasping the net in exultation became an iconic image of the tournament, and of the man.
“Today I don’t think we have a striker who comes even a mile close to how good he was as a striker,” his fellow former Super Eagles star Sunday Oliseh told the BBC’s Sportsworld programme. “During my generation, he was the reason we were able to achieve the results we did – because of all the important goals he scored.” Oliseh went on to describe him as “…a man who gave everything for Nigeria”
Ossa Hayatou, the President of the Confederation of African Football also expressed the shock of “the whole of the African football family” at Yekini’s death. He said “Rashidi Yekini’s fantastic display of skills and talent were evident to the world during Nigeria’s campaigns at the USA ’94 and France ’98 World Cups finals – we will deeply miss him,” Other celebrities and opinion leaders have swarmed Facebook & Twitter with condolence messages.
I want to thank Rashidi Yekini, an iconic nigerian legend who passed this evening for the joy he gave millions. May his soul rest in peace!
— Obi Asika (@obiasika) May 4, 2012
“@Abubakarkagu: Legendary Nigerian striker & 2 times African footballer Rashidi Yekini is dead. He is 49.”…great man, may his soul RIP….
— Nasir El-Rufai (@elrufai) May 4, 2012
l feel profound sadness at the news of rashidi yekini’s death…another undersung hero gone too soon
— Funmi Iyanda (@Funmilola) May 4, 2012
Shattering. Only weeks ago Segun Odegbami wrote a column announcing the impending return of Rashidi Yekini #rememberingyekini
— tolu ogunlesi (@toluogunlesi) May 4, 2012
Rest in peace Rashidi Yekini.
— Ebuka Obi-Uchendu (@Ebuka) May 5, 2012