He was arguably the best footballer that ever laced his boots for the super eagles of Nigeria. Those who criticised his style of play, argued that he was technically deficient, yet can’t deny the fact that football is all about goal scoring; and in this, Rasheedi Yekini was a legend. He was the nightmare of defenders across the globe, during his active playing days. His generation, thanks to his scoring abilities, was the golden era of Nigeria’s football.
To imagine, he died lonely and depressed according to media reports, is a painful reminder of our penchant for using and dumping our bests for charlatans and misfits. Rashidi Yekini should not have died the way he did, if those eulogising him now in death, were kind enough to look his direction when it appears all was not well with him. His mother said much when she admits he was battling mental depression, years after quitting football.
Yekini need not to die at least not the way he did. He brought smiles to millions of his country men and women in his active years. One can see commitments when Yekini adorned the national jersey. He torture himself in the field of play, when he missed a golden chance to score. That’s to me is the hallmark of patriotism. Yekini was loyal to Nigeria till the end of his career. Only very few players in during his active days show his type of commitments to the country. Sunday Oliseh, Amuneke, Taribo West, Garba Lawal and Finidi were those who are close to Yekini in terms of commitments to the fatherland during their active days. Today, these men are not patronised by the leadership of the football governing body in Nigeria. Rather, those who held the country to ransom and brought psychological pains on their compatriots are now being made coaches of the national teams. The likes of Stephen Keshi, Daniel Amokaechi, Siasia and of course Okocha do not deserve anything from Nigeria. These men used Nigeria as platform to get lucrative football contracts abroad. They were quick to jettison national assignments for club engagements. And are known to blackmail the entire nation during crucial matches in the name of allowances and bonus. None of these aforementioned men played for the nation’s glory, theirs was self service; those in doubts should please watch the recorded matches again.
It’s also shocking, that in death Rashidi Yekini became a tribal affair. Only Yoruba states donated money to his burial and were represented at his final interment. For a man who brought joy to all Nigerians, suddenly becoming a Yoruba man in the eyes of other governors in death? Even the Nigerian Football Federation, who are direct beneficiary of his football exploits didn’t deem its fit to honour him with their presence.
Those commentators claiming Rashidi Yekini was fully paid his dues by the government during his active days are far away from the truth. In other climes, legends of Yekini’s class are national treasures; who are priceless and are their country’s sport ambassadors till death. Nigeria indeed owes Yekini, and must ensure his children and aged mother are well taken care of.
We all are guilty by Yekini’s death. The nation betrayed him in his hours of hopelessness. For five years, Rashidi Yekini lived in our amidst exhibiting strange behaviours and avoiding the very people he gave his youth to entertain; no one raised an eyebrow. We watched him unconcerned. Even sport media houses that benefited greatly from the sport Yekini’s exploits help to popularised in Nigeria were silent as Yekini took the painful and no retreat path to mental depression.
Here we go again burying our bests while the ranks of nonentities and charlatans continue to swell in our amidst. We abandoned our heroes and heroines in their hours of needs. All, Yekini needed to stay alive was our comforts, appreciations and patronage; in all these we let him down.
The Super Eagle today, lacks prolific strikers in the class of Rashidi Yekini Years after Yekini quit the stage, our senior national team could not produce a successor to the legend. Those that were brought up by the system to replace him, only show some sparks and then dim our hopes. Yekini was just not replaceable. Yet he was allowed to waste away in Ibadan, when Nigeria could have called on his service to tutor others on goals scoring.
Kwara state House of Assembly is believed to be making moves to honour Yekini, by naming its stadium after him. The same stadium that Nigeria Football Federation have close a couple of times, for its sub-standard nature? How callous, can these Kwara parliamentarians be. If that stadium is not world class, then it does not befit the memory of Yekini.
Like every human, Rashidi Yekini has paid the ultimate price, death. But again, his death diminishes our humanity as a people. The truth is, Nigeria is the greatest loser by his death. Sleep well Yekini – king of goals; a hero betrayed by his country and its people.
Written by Olurotimi Adeola