Abuja (WorldStage Newsoline)-- President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Confederation of African Football president, Issa Hayatouhas have expressed sadness over the passing away of Nigeria’s ace football striker, Rashidi Yekini.
Yekini, aged 48, who scored Nigeria's first ever World Cup goal in 1994, died suddenly in Ira on Friday following what was described as mental illness.
The President according to a statement signed by his media aide, Dr. Reuben Abati received the news with sadness.
The President who also described Yekini’s death as untimely and unfortunate, noted that Nigeria would forever remember his superlative performances especially at the African Cup of Nations in Tunisia in 1994 and the World Cup in the United States in 1994.
“It was a delight watching his fast-paced, goal-bound moves at international football competitions as he was feared by goal-keepers and defenders alike,” the President recalled, adding that Yekini also “epitomised patriotism, discipline, hard work, commitment and humility.”
President Jonathan while expressing regret that illness might have held Yekini down from imparting his football expertise and skills to the younger generation of footballers after his retirement from active play, enjoined his family, fans and Nigerians to continue to cherish the memories of the highpoints of Yekini’s career.
The President also commiserated with the Yekini family, the government and people of Kwara State and all football enthusiasts, and prayed God Almighty to grant the bereaved the fortitude to bear the painful loss and peace to the soul of one of Nigeria’s most prolific footballers.”
Yekini, who was named African Footballer of the Year in 1993, was top scorer as Nigeria won the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations and also appeared at the 1998 World Cup.
The striker, who played for Portuguese side Vitoria Setubal, Greek giants Olympiakos and Spanish team Sporting Gijon, is best remembered for his goals at the World Cup in the United States.
He scored his country's first World Cup goal in a 3-0 win over Bulgaria. His celebration, running into the goal and clutching the netting was one of the tournament's most memorable images.
Confederation of African Football president Issa Hayatou said: "I remember him well. He was a solid attacker - it was so difficult to take the ball from him.
"His physical strength was impressive. His joviality made him an endearing character. He has made a mark on his generation and received recognition from the pantheon of African football.
"In these painful circumstances I want to send in my name and on behalf of all the executive committee and the entire African football family my deepest condolences to his people, the Nigerian Federation and all its supporters. May God bless his soul and comfort his family.”