Ivorians honour life of Yekini
Almost every Ivorian knows the name Rashidi Yekini, including kids born long after the Nigerian player left the west African country.
It was with great shock and sadness when Ivorians heard of his death on Friday, of the man who revolutionised the country's domestic league during the late 1980s with his attacking and goal-scoring prowess, which magically dragged thousands to football stadiums.
"We have not seen any other player like Yekini in this country," Kone Ahmed, a 54-year-old municipal agent told Goal.com
"He was like a rock star here while playing for Africa Sports. Families were naming their babies after him. Business joints like nightclubs, beer parlours, restaurants, car wash, etc, were putting Rashidi Yekini on their signposts to attract clients. Buses and taxis were emblazoned with his name. Even villagers knew and adored him. It is so sad that he died so young."
Africa Sports' former president Simplice Zinzou, who worked closely with the 1993 African Footballer of the Year, said the player had vision and a likeable image.
"When we sign other foreign players, it usually takes some years for them to gain total acceptance from the fans and general public, but it took Yekini less than three months to spread his name across the land," Zinzou said.
"Besides the pitch, he was a star in town. He couldn't move around without a horde of fans following him and demanding for autographs. And despite his popularity he remained humble and generous to both his team mates and fans. It is a very sad day for me and the club to hear this news."Goal.com
visited one of Yekini's business spots in Treichville, an ancient district in central Abidjan, where the Biafra soldiers took refuge during the Nigerian civil war of 1967.
The vast Marqui – restaurant and bar – still bears Africa Sports' red and green colours, and most of the patrons are supporters of the current Ivory Coast champions. The place was in a mournful mood on Saturday morning. Food and drinks were being served as usual but very few people were consuming. Their gazes were sorrowful and a slightly aloof, like a family that has just lost its breadwinner.
"It is no time for talk mister journalist, we are mourning our star, our brother, our friend and our all in football," a man in his forties dressed in a faded Yekini’s Super Eagles jerseys said and turned away.
"Yekini is one of the few club players in our country that was able to bring both the young and old, lovers and non-lovers of football together. He used to pay surprised visits to fans at their homes even at nights and ate with the poor," Serge Kouame, a 56-year-old secondary school teacher, said while sipping his beer.
"He used to buy game tickets and distribute to fans to come to see him play. It is so sad he's gone. I can still see his goals in my spirit. No other player has been so close and so good to us."