by Kevin Henning

I was sad to learn this morning that one of my footballing heroes passed away this week. The man I refer to may not be known by many but was the subject of an iconic World Cup photograph which remains my favourite photo to this day. The player I am writing about is Nigerian striker Rashidi Yekini who died aged 48 on Friday 4th May.

Yekini was never one of the leading lights of the game but had a decent career first in Africa and then during his most productive spell in Portugal with Vitoria de Setubal. During the 1993/94 season, Yekini scored 34 goals in 32 appearances, earning him the award for the league’s top scorer and the African Player of the Year for 1994.

At the end of this season, Rashidi Yekini went to the World Cup with the Super Eagles where they enjoyed wins over Bulgaria and Greece before losing narrowly to Roberto Baggio’s Italian side in extra time in the round of 16. It was during the Bulgaria match that Yekini scored his country’s first ever World Cup goal and celebrated by standing in the back over the goal, hands through the nets and praying to his God. I was 15 years old at the time and the impact of this celebration stays with me to this day.

Yekini’s international career wasn’t limited to this U.S.A. based tournament though; he’d already led the Super Eagles to the African Cup of Nations earlier in the year where he’d top scored again with 5 goals. At the start of the next season, Yekini moved to Greece with Olympiakos but his career never hit the heights of 1994. Spells in Spain and Switzerland saw him enjoy some success before he returned to Africa. He played in the 1998 World Cup in France where Nigeria again reached the second round but was used largely as a substitute.

Yekini had been ill for a long spell and lost his battle on Friday morning. A player that never played for or against my club or country will always have a place in my football memory bank for one of the moments that helped me fall in love with the game. Rest In Peace Rashidi.

Read Kevin’s fantastic tribute to the Super Eagles here