RashidI Yekini death stuns Nigeria
Posted: 5 May 2012 Time: 9:18 am
Nigeria was on Friday left stunned by news of the death of former national team striker Rashidi Yekini.
The 48-year-old passed away at his family home in Ira, Kwara State after months of illness. He was taken for treatment to the United Kingdom, but was brought back to his family home early in the week where he passed, throwing an entire nation into mourning.
Former players, administrators, media and fans were left in shock as news of the legendary striker's passing spread.
Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi, captain of that team that Yekini played in, symbolized the nationwide anguish as he was left speechless with grief.
“I can't talk now. I can't talk now. Maybe later we can talk, but not now,” Keshi said in a broken voice.
Fans besieged radio call-ins, social networking sites and Blackberry Messenger service with grief-stricken messages.
Yekini made his first international appearance for Nigeria in a 2-1 win over Ghana at the 1984 African Nations Cup and went on to appear a total of 58 times over a 14-year international career, scoring 37 goals to put him top of the all-time Eagles scorers' list.
During his most prolific spell for Nigeria, he rattled in a remarkable 31 goals in 30 games between March 1990 and June 1994.
The first of those goals came in 1-0 win over Egypt at the African Nations Cup in Algeria, and the last was that emblematic opening strike against Bulgaria.
In between, there was four-goal haul over Burkina Faso In 1991, a hat trick against Ethiopia in 1993 and seven braces against the likes of Kenya, South Africa, Algeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and Georgia.
Those goals helped Nigeria qualify for and win the African Nations Cup, and were also instrumental in Nigeria's qualification for the 1994 World Cup.
Yekini's opening goal in Nigeria's 3-0 defeat of Bulgaria was not only Nigeria's first ever World Cup goal, but his net-shaking celebration became one of the most iconic images of the World Cup.
Beginning his career at UNTL in Kaduna, Yekini went on to play for Shooting Stars and Abiola Babes before moving to Cote d'Ivoire's Africa Sports, claiming top scorer honors at all three clubs.
From there he joined Portugal's Vitoria Setubal, scoring a freakish 90 goals in 108 appearances, winning the league golden boot in 1994 with a then barely believable 34 goals in 32 games.
In 1993, he was named African Player of the Year, the first Nigerian to claim the award.
Yekini becomes the second member of Nigeria's Golden Generation to pass away, following Uche Okafor's death in 2011.