On Friday night, Rashidi Yekini passed away at the age of 48 after long-term illness. Yekini was arguably the greatest to come out of Africa in the 1990s and certainly the greatest Nigerian striker of all-time. Here, Salim looks at his career, particularly what made the Nigerian hulk so memorable in the minds of world football enthusiasts.
“Salim, I think I just saw Rashidi Yekini working in this hospital,” my father told me on what would become his death bed. “He was cleaning around my bed, we had a little chat.” Rashidi Yekini working as a cleaner? In a hospital in Romford? A fall from grace was possible, but the situation didn’t register. If Yekini was working in a hospital in Romford, I’d like to think I was addicted enough to football to have known. As it turned out, it wasn’t Yekini but a mixture of medicines had rendered my father to have a slight bout of senility.
Yet, the situation arguably also portrayed the extent to which the player had been implanted in his mind. After all, my father had little reason to remember Yekini. He remembered his elite footballers well but he wasn’t one to remember those who weren’t truly elite, particularly those who had stopped being in the limelight for more than a decade. He enjoyed watching football with me but if Manchester United were playing at Old Trafford he wouldn’t have been able to confirm whether they were playing at home or not – and the same goes for any of the other clubs, he wasn’t adept at identifying scenery or atmosphere it seemed (much to my frustration).