The legendary striker is the most prolific Nigerian ever and the first to score for the West Africans at the World Cup, but there’s the man who gave him a chance at international glory
Former Super Eagles coach Festus Adegboye Onigbinde has revealed that he handed Rashidi Yekini his national team debut, setting the late goal-getter on his way to a highly successful playing career.
After coach Otto Gloria, who guided Nigeria to Afcon glory on home soil in 1980, could not steer the Green Eagles past the group stage of the following edition, coach Onigbinde was saddled with the task of preparing the team for the 1984 tournament.
The former Shooting Stars coach did away with many of the old guards, including star striker Emmanuel Osigwe, to make room for greenhorns like Yekini, Humphrey Edobor and Tarila Okorowanta.
In fact, at least seven of Onigbinde’s 22-man squad to Ivory Coast ’84 were teenagers with none of Nigeria’s players above 22 years old except the magnificent Mudashiru Lawal.
Still, Nigeria made it final of the Africa Nations Cup, where they cruelly lost 1-3 to Cameroon.
Yekini did not score at that tournament, but he would go on to net 37 goals for Nigeria, lifting the 1994 Afcon trophy and picking up the African Footballer of the Year award.
Over three decades after that experience, Onigbinde is still pleased with his decision to introduce Yekini to the big time.
“In October 1983, Nigeria beat Ghana in Accra, and that was the first time a Nigerian team defeated Ghana away from home,” Onigbinde told the caf website.
“But what was impressive about my team was the fact that some of the players came from nowhere when I discovered them and gave them national team debuts.
“Some of these players include the late African Player of the Year Rashidi Yekini, Chibuzor Ehilegu, Tarila Okorowanta, Ademola Adesina, among others.”