League Management Company (LMC), has hinted of plans to rename the Nigeria Professional Football League top scorer award after one of the country’s greatest football stars and former member of the Super Eagles, the legendary Rashidi Yekini.
Chairman of the LMC, Shehu Dikko, who revealed this, Monday, explained that the move is aimed at immortalizing the fallen ex-international for his contributions to the growth and popularity of Nigeria football in his playing days.
In addition to this development, plans are in place for an end-of-the-season award for the top division which to him will create commercial value and additional revenues.
“There is a broad plan to institute awards and honour outstanding players, officials, key stakeholders and fans in the league at the end of every season and there are a number of factors that led us to reach the decision to name one of these awards, that of the highest goal scorer after the late Rasheed Yekini. The award is part of strategic plans of the LMC to create commercial value and additional revenues out of the assets inherent in the league property,” Dikko said.
Continuing, Dikko added: “We considered the aspiration factor which seeks to let the players know that they too can become national heroes if they achieve excellence and make a success of their career. It says to them that they too can become legends of the game and the society will honour them as we have sought to honour the late Yekini.”
Born in Kaduna, Yekini stared his professional career in the Nigerian league but he moved to Côte d’Ivoire to play for Africa Sports National, and from there he went to Portugal and Vitória de Setúbal where he experienced his most memorable years, eventually becoming the first division’s top scorer in the 1993–94 season after scoring 21 goals; the previous campaign he had netted a career-best 34 in 32 games to help the Sadinos promote from the second level, and those performances earned him the title of African Footballer of the Year once, the first ever from the nation.
He was also named the African Footballer of the Year in 1993.
In the 1994 summer Yekini was bought by Olympiacos FC, but did not get along with teammates and left. His career never really got back on track, not even upon a return to Setúbal, which happened after another unassuming spell, in La Liga with Sporting de Gijón; he successively played with FC Zürich, Club Athlétique Bizertin and Al-Shabab Riyadh, before rejoining Africa Sports. In 2003, at 39, he returned to the Nigerian championship with Julius Berger FC.
In 2005, 41-year-old Yekini made a short comeback, moving alongside former national teammate Mobi Oparaku to Gateway United FC.
Additionally, Yekini helped the Super Eagles win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations where he also topped the goal charts and was named best player of the competition. He also participated at Olympic level in Seoul 1988.
Yekini was reported to be ill for an extended period of time. In 2011, news media in Nigeria begun issuing reports of his failing health, and he was said to suffer from bipolar disorder, depression and some other undisclosed psychiatric condition.
He died in Ibadan on 4 May 2012 at the age of only 48 and was buried at his residence in Ira, Kwara State.