Former Super Eagles Striker Rashidi Yekini dies at 48
One of the greatest players Nigeria ever had, Rashidi Yekini, is dead. The two-time African Footballer of the Year died this evening in Kwara after a prolonged illness. He was just 48 years old. Yekini was Nigeria’s national team highest/record goal scorer, scoring 37 goals in 58 appearances.
He’s survived by two children. So so sad. May his soul rest in peace, amen.
Even though I was away when Yekini became a super star and the era of instant communication was still in the near future, I first saw him (on television) perform at the 94 World Cup at Los Angeles where he scored that memorable goal against the Bulgarian team in a 3-0 rout that got every team scared at such a great performance. And my, what a goal that Nigeria’s first World Cup goal was!
U.S. papers, especially those in areas with large soccer followers like Los Angeles with its large Latin-American populations had its local L.A. TIMES go into high gear with superlatives. A paper described Yekini’s dramatic action as he held the net tightly after the goal as “near-spiritual”! While I cannot understand till this day how that same team played a lackluster next game against a Roberto Baggio-led equally lackluster Italian team – and lost, THAT work of art by Yekini has forever remained with me.
Of course as usual with Nigeria where those who harvest where they were not never present at sowing time. I’ve read of the itinerant life Yekini lived in his attempt to make a living from a professional career and how he was abandoned by a country for which he was the highest goal scorer on the international stage.
While characters like Amos Adamu became super wealthy from sports administration in Nigeria and filled the Nigerian Football Federation with his relations, those who actually labored for the sports and enhanced the image of the country on the world stage have always been neglected.
“Imagine Dayo Achor, Eagles secretary is son of Adamu’s sister and Adelowo, NFF cashier is younger brother of Adamu’s wife. This, in a country of over 140 million people and one man decided to fix 2 of his siblings in 2 sensitive positions in NFF. We do not even know of other positions he has his siblings. He installed Lulu and now he is trying to install a new person that had been in that office before, with little or no known contributions …” [From my column, The Nation on Sunday, July 2010]
For example, I had first-hand knowledge of how the kids that Muda-Lawal left behind were promised the world when the young man died but the pledged-help to his widow and kids was reneged upon once he was dead. That was not the first time of a state in Nigeria or even the federal government would turn its back on those who deserve to be helped when they are no longer in positions of serving the country.
The guy who designed the national flag supposedly died in penury although Oyo State reportedly tried to help him in his hours of dire need.
Rashidi Yekini was our hero and if the words of the National Anthem count for anything - “… the labors of our heroes past/shall never be in vain/… – this kind of MIS-treatment of those who actually made Nigeria proud must stop.
It is not that Britain would dole houses or cash – as such – to those who make her proud on the world stage but apart from Queen’s honor – knighthood – avenues to cash in on medals at world competitions are always open to her athletes. And, of course, ditto the Americans.
Soccer is not yet a great American sport but even the women players have gone on to make very decent living after winning in international competitions. Consider, for example, Brandi Chastain, the bra-baring forward who won for the USA with a penalty over China in the late 90s. Brandi not only made the covers of publications, including Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated, she got ad promotions, appeared in a movie (documentary), has been a commentator on one of the television networks at an Olympics while she is a regular color commentator on soccer.
Each time I drive through the U.S. Agricultural Research premises – a serene and short cut I use a whole lot when in the Washington area, I always wonder at the honor done George Washington Carver (1864 – 1943) by naming a part of the huge research center after him. While Carver was a great scientist and inventor who – apart from devising many products from the then lowly peanuts (groundnuts) – researched into alternate food crops for cotton, he was born into slavery.
Yekini’s case must not be allowed to add to the statistics of neglect that has characterized those who represented Nigeria and raised her profile. That electric moment in 1994 – alone – that Yekini provided for us apart from being the country’s highest international goal scorer must not be allowed to be forgotten.
May he find peace with his Maker, and may the family he left behind be comforted by He who alone can comfort. Hopefully, government would assist his kids who must still be very young.
May 5, 2012.