Nigerian football enthusiasts remember the 1994 FIFA World Cup held in the United States of America as the debut outing of the Super Eagles at the global showpiece but few remember late Rashidi Yekini as the first Nigerian to score in the Senior men’s tournament.
The June 21, 1994 encounter between the Super Eagles and the Bulgarian national team saw 44,132 spectators fill up the Cotton Bowl ground in Dallas, Texas to watch Nigeria play their first World Cup match after emerging champions of the Africa Cup of Nations held in Tunisia in April 1994.
The Eastern European nations were clearly favourites for the tie but the hard-fighting spirit of the Nigerian side meant the African champions would go on to record a 3-0 victory over their opponents. Rashidi Yekini would score what went down in history as Nigeria’s first World Cup goal in the 21st minute of the encounter and accompanied it with a 51-second iconic celebration, grabbing the net tightly. Yekini’s roommate during the Eagles outing, Thompson Oliha, recounts Yekini’s feeling after scoring the goal:
Yekini was a man of himself. A man who knew what he wanted and what he wanted to do for his country. He was always ready to risk everything for the team and country.
As footballers we at times get carried away by our emotion or passion and that was what happened when he scored that goal… I think he was saying something like ‘It is me! It is me!’
Yes, it was a goal with a touch of a team work but the man just celebrated the best way he thought. Remember Yekini was a man who loved to live without publicity and his name will remain in history as the first to score for Nigeria at the World Cup.Thompson Oliha
Another member of the 1994 Eagles squad, Mutiu Adepoju, also recounts Yekini’s passion for the round leather game;
He was passionate about football on and off the pitch. He talked less but worked hard. Really no one can say what he was saying after he scored that goal but being the first-ever Nigerian goal scorer at the World Cup I understood the excitement. Yekini was just a simple man… he was so happy and passionate.Mutiu Adepoju
Featured Image Source: FIFA.