FIVE MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS OF YEKINI
Like a colossus, Rashidi Yekini bestrode the football world with an aura that many of his contemporaries wished they could attain.
Goal.com presents some of the most memorable highlights in the career of Nigerian legend who passed away in unsung circumstances on May 4.
5 Portuguese top scorer award
Being among the early batch of Nigerian players to make the transition to Europe, Yekini found a home at Vitoria Setubal (club logo pictured), a mid-level Portuguese Primeira Liga side, where he played for four years, 1990-1994. In his third season, Yekini became the fourth African since Eusebio, Angolan Vata and compatriot Richard Owubokiri to win the award for highest goals scored in a Portuguese top flight season.
With 21 goals scored in the 1993-94 season for lowly Setubal, Yekini took home the prestigious Bola de Prata trophy given out by O Bola newspaper since 1934. It was the first highest scorer title for Setubal since Francisco Rodrigues did the double between 1943 and 45.
4 Enduring national goals record
Yekini played with such great focus that he scored 37 international goals for the Super Eagles in just 58 appearances. He got an average of 0.64 goals per game. Since his last game for the Eagles in 1998, that record has yet to be breached.
Yekini struck off Odegbami's record by the time he won his 37th international cap with a hat trick against Ethiopia in a 6-0 thumping at the National Stadium, Lagos on July 27, 1993. He would go on to raise the bar a notch higher with 37 goals before he played his last for the Nigerian team in 1998.
Yekini was never without his talismanic goal scoring instincts
3 African player of the year 1993
Yekini set a precedent for Nigerian football when he won the Caf African footballer of the year award in 1993. He became the first Nigerian to win the title. It was a feat achieved playing in Portugal, away from the French league that had dominated the awards for most of the preceding years.
2. Iconic World Cup goal celebration
One of the most enduring goal celebrations ever seen at the World Cup happened on the night of June 21, 1994 when the big striker scored what was Nigeria's first ever goal at the World Cup finals against Bulgaria. The Super Eagles had qualified for the Mundial, their first appearance on the big stage, courtesy of goals from Yekini. He scored eight goals in the qualification series to ensure Nigeria's flag was finally flown at USA '94, the biggest World Cup at the time.
As if fate was rewarding him for all of his previous efforts, he latched on to a cross from Finidi George to score what looked like an easy goal by his own standards. As it dawned on him that he had scored the first ever goal for Nigeria at the World Cup, Yekini ran into the goal post, grabbed the net, and shook it endlessly while screaming to the high heavens.
1 African champions in 1994
Perhaps the greatest ever achievement of Rashidi Yekini's career was when he won the Africa Cup of Nations title with Nigeria in 1994. Playing in Tunisia under Clemens Westerhof at his fifth Afcon tournament, Yekini scored five goals to win the top scorer's award and also help propel the team to victory. It must be noted that Yekini won the Afcon title as a reigning African player of the year. No reigning player of the year has won the Afcon trophy since he did it in '94, what with the pressure that comes with the spotlight. It is a burden that I have always secretly referred to as the Yekini syndrome.