The football world has produced many iconic figures over the years, but few have left a mark as indelible as Rashidi Yekini, who died May 4, 2012 aged 48.
A name that echoes with adoration among African football enthusiasts, Yekini’s journey through the beautiful game was nothing short of extraordinary. His prolific goal-scoring, passion, and unique celebrations made him a beloved figure, and his legacy lives on as Google celebrated the late icon’s 60th birthday by creating a doodle of the man who scored Nigeria’s first ever World Cup goal.
Nicknamed the ‘Goals Father’, Yekini is Nigeria’s top scorer with 37 goals and is widely considered the greatest Nigerian striker and one of the best in Africa.
Here, PUNCH Sports Extra celebrates the Top 10 moments of Yekini, who would have been 60 on MondayBorn on October 23, 1963 in Kaduna, Yekini’s remarkable football journey began in earnest when he scored his first goal for the Super Eagles on April 6, 1985 against Kenya in the 1986 World Cup qualifiers. This moment marked the beginning of a prolific international career, one that would see him become the Eagles’ all-time leading scorer with 37 goals in 58 appearances.He was the highest scorer in the Ivory Coast topflight league for three consecutive years (1988, 1989 and 1990) while playing in the colours of Africa Sports.ALSO READ:Algeria Offers To Host Palestinian Football Matches Amid Gaza War
Yekini scored four goals to claim the Golden Boot, as he led Nigeria to a bronze medal finish at the AFCON 1992 in Senegal.
In 1993, he was crowned the African Footballer of The Year, the first Nigerian to be so honoured, after his goals fired the Eagles to a first-ever qualification for the World Cup in 1994.For the second time, Yekini claimed the AFCON Golden Boot in 1994 with five goals in Tunisia, but this time, the then 30-year-old, at the peak of his powers, led the Eagles to their second AFCON title, as he also claimed the tournament’s best player award. On his return to Nigeria, the Federal Government honoured him with the Member of The Order of The Niger award.
Nigeria’s maiden appearance at the FIFA World Cup in 1994 was historic, and Yekini played a pivotal role in etching this moment in football history. In the opening game against highly fancied Bulgaria, the former Vitoria Setubal man netted Nigeria’s first-ever goal in a World Cup, in a 3–0 win against the Europeans, with his celebration after scoring, crying while holding the goal’s net, becoming one of the iconic images of the tournament and the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
Ye-King as he was also fondly called, had a blistering goals-laden club career. He scored 45 league goals in 53 games for his first club Shooting Stars, 80 goals in 100 games for Abiola, 112 goals in 130 games for Ivorian giants Africa Sports, 94 goals in 148 Babes for Portuguese side Setubal and many more.
Primeira Liga Golden Boot
The late striker was the top scorer in the Portuguese Primeira Liga in the 1993/94 season after finding the back of the net 21 times to win the Golden Boot in his last season with Vitoria Setubal.
In the previous campaign (1992/93), Yekini netted a career-best 34 goals in only 32 games to help Setubal secure promotion from the Portuguese second division to the Primeira Liga.In April 2005, 41-year-old Yekini made a short comeback, moving alongside former national teammate Mobi Oparaku to Gateway United FC. The veteran proved he still knew how to find the net, scoring seven goals in 26
Written by: Kevin Nwabueze
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