YEKINI, Rashidi

Nigeria's Most Successful Striker by(Segun Odegbami). From very humble beginnings in Kaduna where he was born 38 years ago, Rashidi Yekini, in 16years has become one of the greatest African footballers of this century. He is known the world over for his goal-scoring ability. He stands 1.82 metres tall, he has the conventional physique of a striker- rippling muscles, the torso of a thoroughbred and the instincts of a lion. He is extremely fast(he used to run the 100metres in around eleven seconds). He has good physical balance;can take good shots with both feet; has good heading ability; and maintains an unusually calmness in front of the goal post. Inshort, Rashidi Yekini has all the physical and mental attributes of a great goal scorer. He is,however, very humble. Rashidi is a teetotaller. He does not smoke, neither is he a womaniser. When he finally decided to get married, he chose a woman he barely knew. She was good-looking, well-behaved and a university graduate!Those were all the credentials he needed! Rashidi loves the game of football. His whole life revolves around it. On the football field he excels. Off the field, Rashidi is a loner. He runs his life his own way,doing things that would appear eccentric to those who do not understand him. He never operates as a member of a clique. For several years after he went abroad to start a professional footballing career, the only persons who knew how much heearned and what he did with his earnings were his bankers in Ibadan who kept every dollar he collected as sign-on fees or wages. Incredibleas it may seem, he keeps all his earnings in Nigeria. For many years he did not withdraw any money from his bank account in Nigeria. He has an acute native intelligence that has influenced all his actions. Rashidi has a policy of not spending his earnings. He lives on allowances and bonuses alone!Unlike his colleagues who came home with flashy cars and fancy clothes,Rashidi drove the same Peugeot 504 saloon car he had bought while playing for Shooting Stars in Ibadan for years and never wore designer clothes. The only extravagance he allowed himself was the occasional night out dancing in a night club!Years after he had become a successful professional footballer in Europe, when he finally decided to buy a new car, he bought a Mercedes 200. His modesty is remarkable. He isa conservativeto the core. Itissurprising, therefore, that hisgoal-scoring ability has not declined despite hisconservative ap proach to football; refusing to modify his game or learn new tricks. Any club that desired his services had to use him the way he was, not try to change him or his style. Only Lauren Pokou of Coted'lvoire has a better goal-scoring record than Rashidi Yekini in the his tory ofthe African Nations Cup. He has 13 goalstohis credit, one less than Pokou. Perhaps if Nigeria had been to the Nations Cup in South Africain 1996 (the country boy cotted the championship), Rashidi would have beaten Pokou's record. Rashidi is a goal-scoring machine. Between 1983and 1984,Rashidi became a sensationas agoal scorer in the northern city of Kaduna,where he played for a local team called UNTL Football Club. He was the highest goalscorer in that team. Local scouts of Shooting Stars ofIbadan, who were always on the look out for players of Yoruba extraction playing for teams from the northern part of the country,sent word that they had discovered a talent fit to play immediately in the Shooting Starsteam,which was preparing to represent the country at the 1984 African Club Championship. They were right. Rashidi joined the team and started slotting in the goals. In his first year, at only 21, he played alongside Segun Odegbami in the heart of the Shooting Stars attack. He ended the season as the highest goal scorer both inthe league and inthe toughest football competition inthe African continent-the Champions Club championship. It was no mean feat! He was raw; an uncut gem, with a one-track mind that was set on one thing:goals,goals,and more goals. His single-m indedness was amazing. Less than a year after joining the Shooting Stars,he was invited to play for the national team and became an instant hit-man for the Eagles. Such was his prodigious talent. There after, for two football seasons, he played for Abiola Babes in Abeokuta, before ZeZe Zensou, Cote d'lvoire's most powerful sports personality, took him to Cote d'lvoire en route Europe, and a new glit tering footballing career. Even now, in the twilight of his career, he is still scoring goals in Saudi Arabia is currently based. In theNigerian League, before he moved to Cote d'lvoire, he was the highest goal scorer for two seasons. Similarly, in Cote d'lvoire, where he played for Assec Mimosa, he was the highest goal scorer for the season he played there. In Portugal he was unstoppable as he kept the whole of Europe trying to keep count ofhis goals. He moved to Greece for a very short period, which turned out to be a misadventure that almost marred his career. Aftera few games for Olympiakos of Greece, in which he did not score any goals, he packed his bags and returned to Nigeria. The international football federation, FIFA, had to intervene be fore Olympiakos agreed to release him from thecon tract. All the while, he remained the most consistent goal scorer in theNigerian national team. Rashidi's last goal for Nigeria was scored during the World Cup finals in America, in a match against Bulgaria. It was his 34th goal in 42 national outings. No Nigerian footballer comes close to this awesome record; not even 'Thunder' Tesilimi Balogun, Thompson Usiyen or 'Mr. Mathematical' Segun Odegbami!- all great goal scorers in their own rights. Rashidi Yekini was to Nigerian football what Lynford Christie was to British athletics. In front of the goal post, his concentration is absolute. He, how ever, lacks the finesse, flair, and style of his contemporaries. Rashidi has little time for such glamour. The ingenuity of his goals more than makes up for his lack offancy dribbles and show manship. Perhaps this serious-mindedness is the single factor that puts him in a class of himself. His record is truly phenomenal. By the time Nigeria was going to America for the greatest football challenge in her football history, Rashidi had made a name for himselfas the country's highestgoalscorerever. He had played at four African Nations Cup finals, and had scored more goals for Nigeria in 10years since he first emerged on the national football scene, than any other Nigerian. Rashidi, almost 40years old,is still playing foot ballands coring goals. He plays for Ally Football Club of Saudi Arabia and maintains an unassailable goal scoring record. Rashidi Yekini's story has not ended yet.There are still a few more chapters to write about this enigmatic footballer who lives aquiet life but continues, even now, to confound the world with his goal scoring instincts and ability.As a veritable measure of his intellect and the sharpness of his brain, although he never went beyond primary school, he is proficient in five languages, three of which he can speak (Yoruba, Hausa and English) by virtue of his birth place. The two other foreign languages are French and Portuguese - which he learnt in the few years that he lived in Cote d'lvoire and Portugal, playing professional football. By now, after living for six months in Saudi Arabia,it would not be a surprise if he already speaks Arabic. Asa Muslim he would gladly embrace Arabic!There may perhaps never be a better way to appreciate the depth ofthe man who can unarguably claim the title of-most successful striker in the history of Nigerian football.
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