The last is yet to be heard about Nigeria’s all-time Super Eagles highest goal scorer, Rashidi Yekini, who passed on May 4, 2012, as the late striker’s bosom friend, Tijani Babangida, had opened up on the psychological trauma the late striker faced while wearing the green and white jersey of Nigeria at the USA’94 FIFA World Cup.
Babangida, who was Yekini’sroommate at the Mundial where Nigeria made her maiden outing, took National Mirror down memory lane on how his relationship with Yekini began in Kaduna.
“I grew up in Kaduna with Yekini and we were so close, though he was older than me”. “We played together for a team called Ade Boys FC of Kaduna which was his firstclub before he moved over to UNTL”.
Speaking further on the conspiracy against Yekini during the USA’94 FIFA World Cup, Babangidasaid that if he should reveal everything that happened at the Mundial, many Nigerians would be shocked.
“It is a long story and if I should go into details, a lot of guys will go down. But I can tell you what transpired during the peace talks and tell you exactly what Yekini told me because he was my roommate at the World Cup in USA and even at France ’98”.
“In the meeting when the whole team had ganged up and attacked him, he simply knelt down in front of the whole team and begged them to forgive him if he had hurt anyone with his comment”.
“I was very surprised because the way they attacked him, I was thinking he would abuse the whole team and things would go sour, but that did not happen; instead he went down on his two knees begging them for forgiveness”.
“I asked Yekini why he should go to such extent to beg them since I was his only supporter and he said, Tijani, if I fight them they will not pass the balls again to me like they frustrated me during the Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia”.
“It was then I laughed and to my shock, Yekini burst into tears and wept bitterly. That was why Yekini never wanted to do anything with all the ex-Eagles players because he felt they brought him down and believed also that they hated him”, Babangida said with a tinge of regret.
According to Babangida, it was clear that Yekini wanted to use the Mundial in America to make a statement to the soccer world by painting the competition red with goals, but somehow that ambition or dream died after he had scored only a goal in that match for the Super Eagles in their 3-0 whitewash of Bulgaria in the opener.
Speaking further on the personality of Yekini, Babangida said he was a hard working person when it came to training and hated losing a match.“When I was in the national team as a young player, he guided me and he was the only close friend I had in camp because he was a very reserved person”.
“Yekini was a very jovial person…he liked making people laugh”. He was never angry with anyone when I was around him, even when he was angry with anyone and I begged him, he would always compromise.
“If you knew who Yekini was, you would really admire his personality”, Babangida concluded.
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