ByÂ Ben Efe
Big, strong and reliable Rashidi Yekini bestrode the African
Nations Cup turf scoring goals with easy grace, he won gold, silver and bronze in four editions, but there was one bridge the gangling striker couldnâ€™t cross and that was Laurent Pokuâ€™s all time highest goal scorerâ€™s record.
Pokuâ€™s record of 14 goals from two editions of the Nations lasted for ages, it waited to be broken, but for Yekini it was a long shot until Cameroonâ€™s Samuel Etoâ€™o came along to wipe it out at Ghana 2008. Poku was the highest goal scorer from the 1968 and 1970 tournaments with 14 goals.
Yekini began his Nations Cup title chase at the 1988 Nations Cup hosted by Morocco.
He opened his goal account with a goal against Kenya in the opening group B match, that was Yekiniâ€™s only goal in the tournament in which a total of 23 goals where scored. Cameroonâ€™s Roger Milla, Lakdhar Belluomi of Algeria, Egyptâ€™s Gamal Abdel El-Hamid and Coteâ€™d Ivoireâ€™s Abdoulaye TraorÃ© were jointÂ goal scorers in the Tournament won by Cameroon with a controversial penalty against Nigeria in the final.
By the Algiers ’90 edition where the Eagles started disastrously with a 5-1 drubbing by the hosts, Yekini had moulded himself into a goal scoring machine for the national team, he scored three goals in Algeria just one behind top scorer Djamel Menad of Algeria.
There was no disputing Rashidi Yekini as African goal king at the Senegal 1992 edition. He banged in four gaols in the tournament that produced 34 goals. Ghanaâ€™s Abedi Pele was Yekiniâ€™s main rival for the golden boot.
At Tunisia 1994 where the Eagles reigned supreme and won their first Nations Cup on away soil, there was no stopping Yekini as he banged in five goals to bring his total to 13 goals overall, just one shot of Pokuâ€™s record.
At the 1996 edition Yekiniâ€™s ambition to overtake the Ivorian was killed by the government of late head of state, Sanni Abacha who withdrew the Eagles from the tournament in South Africa just to spite Nelson Mandelaâ€™s strong opposition to military dictatorship in Nigeria.
That single action led to Nigeriaâ€™s expulsion from the 1998 edition in Morocco. And thus Yekini lost his opportunity to increase his goals tally.
However, Yekini remains Nigeriaâ€™s all time highest goals scorer with 37 goals from 70 appearances for Nigeria.