BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
It is eight years today since Nigeria’s all-time top scorer, Rashidi Yekini breathe his last.
The tall and bulky striker died in Ibadan where he was reportedly abducted by family members for treatment of suspected bipolar disorder, depression and some other undisclosed psychiatric conditions. He was aged 48.
Goal-scoring was his major attribute. Although Yekini last scored for Nigeria in a 22 February 1998 friendly match with Jamaica in Kingston, 22 years later, no other Super Eagles’ player moved close to his 37- goal mark.
In the qualifying series for the 1994 World Cup, his eight-goal effort was the highest in the Africa. He went on to set a record as Nigeria’s first scorer at the World Cup when he connected a long pass from Finidi George from the right flank in the match against Bulgaria.
The year before, the tall bulky player was voted African Footballer for the Year 1993. The honour was bestowed on him on the eve of the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations. He further justified the rating by topping goal chart at the tournament.
Yekini had an amazing instinct for goal and easily be anyone’s idea of a striker. He was nicknamed the “Hulk” for his bulldozing style, dominating physique and towering presence.
He was at the brink of shooting into record books had he scored in the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations final match against Zambia or if Nigeria had not pulled out of the next edition in South Africa.
Yekini could have topped an all-time goal chart. At the time, he needed just one goal to equal the 14 scored by initial record holder, the Ivorien Laurent Pokou whose record endured for 20 years from 1974 to 1994.
Yekini debuted at the Cote d’Ivoire ’84. He went on to feature in the 1988, 1990, 1992 and 1994 finals.
The South Africa ’96 would have been his sixth championship and a record appearance.
With Shooting Stars in Ibadan, he was a finalist in the premier continental cup competition -the then African Cup of Champions Clubs in 1984.
He won the Challenge Cup with the Abiola Babes. When he crossed the country’s frontier to play in Cote d’Ivoire, he became an idol at Africa Sports of Abidjan.
He later moved to Europe and joined Vitoria Setubal of Portugal where in 24 games at Season 1990/91, Yekini scored 13 goals.
The following season, he scored 22 goals in 30 matches and 24 in 26 matches in 1992/93 season.