Odegbami: Nigeria Cannot Produce another Rashidi Yekini with this Environment

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Late Rashidi Yekini celebrating Nigeria’s first World Cup goal he scored against Bulgaria at USA ‘94

Duro Ikhazuagbe

Eight years after former Super Eagles forward, Rashidi Yekini died in Ibadan aged just 48 years and 22 years after he last scored for the Nigerian senior national team, echoes of the achievements of the gangling footballer have continued to resonate.

The 1993 African Footballer of the Year was reportedly abducted from his home in Ibadan by his family members and taken somewhere in Kwara State for treatment for depression and other psychiatric conditions.

He was reported to have died exactly eight years ago yesterday and buried according to Islamic rites with little fanfare for a man whose goal scoring prowess remains unmatched to date by current generations of Nigerian footballers.

Speaking with THISDAY yesterday, another icon of the game in Nigeria, Chief Segun Odegbami said Rashidi Yekini remains the benchmark for measuring success and patriotism.

“Rashidi Yekini was an exceptional footballer. He was thrown up by the system we had in place in the country then and flourished as footballer for both club and country,” observed the former Green Eagles Captain fondly called Mathematical.

Odegbami believes that Nigeria can reproduce another Yekini but unfortunately the structure in place in the country now does not permit such.

“ Yes we can have another Rashidi Yekini but unfortunately the environment will not allow it,” Odegbami said without mincing words.

He also agreed that there are sports talents in the country and not just budding footballers.

“Nigeria is filled with abundance of talents waiting to be discovered but unfortunately we operate a system that doesn’t encourage good grassroots sports development, not just football alone.

“Where did Rashidi Yekini come from? Nobody knew him until we brought him to Ibadan from Kaduna. The system then was good for talents to flourish but not anymore,” said the former Shooting Stars winger who has been trying to recreate the golden era of Nigerian soccer at his sports academy in Wasimi in Ogun State.

Odegbami expressed his displeasure with how the country’s leagues have suffered hiccups over time.

“Where is our local leagues? What has happened to several of the grassroots programmes that threw up several of the past players that Nigerians celebrated? They are all gone,” he regretted.

Asked if another Rashidi Yekini can emerge from the present crop of Nigerian strikers, Odegbami doubted it.

“I cannot tell you who amongst the present generation can be like Rashidi Yekini because the system doesn’t allow me to know them.”

He advocated for a good structure and better administration of the country’s football if Nigeria is to make any meaningful impact with the abundant talents here.

“What we need is a good structure and administration that will allow our players to achieve their full potentials,” concludes the ex international.

No other Super Eagles’ player has moved close to the 37- goal record of Yekini from 58 matches for the national team.

In the qualifying series for the Nigeria’s debut at the 1994 World Cup, Yekini’s eight-goal effort was the highest in the Africa.

He went on to set a record as Nigeria’s first scorer at the World Cup when he connected a long pass from Finidi George from the right flank in the match against Bulgaria.

Yekini’s celebration of that goal inside the net remains one of the iconic features of that Nigeria’s outing at USA ‘94.

Also yesterday, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) released a photo book video of the exploits of Yekini on the social media with several Nigerians recalling his many exploits for the country.