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Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Tuesday, 31 May 2005 16:30 UK

The return of the "Goals Father"

Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

Former Nigeria international Rashidi Yekini
Football is my life and I will keep playing until I cannot lift my legs anymore
Rashidi Yekini (left)

Former African Footballer of the Year, Rashidi Yekini, made headlines over the weekend when he made his Nigerian league comeback for Gateway FC of Abeokuta.

Despite his team's 1-0 loss to Shooting Stars in the Nigeria premiership, the man known as 'Ye-king' could not hide his delight about playing once again.

"I'm happy that the fans still showed me so much love and affection," he told BBC Sport.

"It's sad that we lost the game but there's so much satisfaction with the way the team played and I'm happy to be a part of that," said the former Nigerian international, who scored over 50 goals for the Super Eagles.

The 41-year-old striker, who ironically made his Nigerian league debut for Shooting Stars in 1983, was a little slower than in his earlier days but the fans were pleased with his performance throughout the entire 90 minutes.

I am optimistic that when he understands the boys, our opponents will pay dearly
Gateway coach Niyi Akande

Gateway's coach, Niyi Akande, said he thought Yekini will only get better as the season goes on.

"He gave a good account of himself for the duration of the game," the coach said.

"I am optimistic that when he understands the boys, our opponents will pay dearly."

The player echoed Akande's comments and said that he was not too disheartened about his failure to score.

"I could feel the fans and their impatience to celebrate my goals but I am not in a rush," Yekini said.

"I think when I understand the team, the goals will start coming gradually.

"I am not under any sort of pressure because I am playing to enjoy myself not for the money or attention that comes with modern-day football."

A former car mechanic, Yekini began his career with United Nigeria Textiles Limited (UNTL) FC in the northern city of Kaduna.

He moved south to Ibadan to join Shooting Stars FC, whom he helped reach the 1984 final of the African Champions Cup (now the Champions League).

The lanky forward made his Nigeria debut at the African Cup of Nations later that year, but it was the following decade where he made his presence felt on both the continent and the world stage.

Former Nigeria international Rashidi Yekini
Yekini scored Nigeria's first ever World Cup goal against Bulgaria

In 1993, he became the first Nigerian to be crowned the African Footballer of the Year as his goals helped Nigeria qualify for their maiden World Cup appearance the following year.

Yekini was also the top scorer at the 1994 African Nations Cup finals in Tunisia, where Nigeria's Super Eagles won the trophy for the second time.

He went a step further at USA '94 when he scored his country's first World Cup goal in the Super Eagles' 3-0 victory over Bulgaria.

One of the most prolific strikers in African football history, Yekini played for Ivorian side Africa Sport, Portugal's Vitoria Setubal, Olympiakos of Greece, Swiss side FC Zurich and Al Shabab in Saudi Arabia.

'Ye-king' had a stint with Julius Berger during the 2003 season but differences with coach Fatai Amoo forced him to quit.

Yekini, who also contested the 1998 World Cup finals, is the second person from Nigeria's 1994 team to return to action in the domestic league.

Former Everton and Besiktas forward Daniel Amokachi is a registered player with Nassarawa United and was in action against Shooting Stars during the opening day of the championship.

"It is good to have former stars like me give back to the game in the country and the young players will definitely learn a lot from us," Yekini said.

"Football is my life and I will keep playing until I cannot lift my legs anymore."

Even at the age of 41, it would a surprise if one of the greatest strikers in the history of Nigeria football did not go on to score goals in the premier league.



see also
Return of the Nigerian bull
16 Feb 05 |  African
African legends: Segun Odegbami
12 Aug 03 |  African