Today’s Google Doodle pays tribute to the indomitable spirit and remarkable career of Nigerian football icon Rashidi Yekini, fondly known as the “Goalsfather,” marking his birth in Kaduna, Nigeria, on this day in 1963.
Yekini’s life journey began with adversity, grappling with homelessness and financial constraints. As a means of earning a livelihood, he initially worked as a welder and a mechanic. However, his unwavering passion for football steered him towards pursuing a career in the sport. His breakthrough arrived when he caught the attention of scouts, leading to his debut with UNTL FC in Kaduna in 1981.
His exceptional talent propelled him to the Shooting Stars football club, where he left an indelible mark by netting an impressive 45 goals in 53 games. Yekini’s extraordinary goal-scoring prowess earned him the prestigious title of African Footballer of the Year in 1983, making him the first Nigerian to receive this esteemed accolade. The following year, he played a key role in guiding the Shooting Stars to the finals of the African Champions Cup.
Yekini’s football journey extended beyond Nigeria, encompassing stints with various football clubs in Spain, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Portugal, Tunisia, Switzerland, and Greece. Notably, during his tenure with the Portuguese team Vitória Setúbal, he clinched the Bola de Prata (Silver Ball) for emerging as the top-scoring player in the league during the 1993-94 season.
His significant contributions extended to the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles, as he played a pivotal role in securing the team’s qualification for the 1994 World Cup. Yekini’s shining moment arrived during the encounter with Bulgaria on June 21st, where he not only scored the first goal of the game but also marked Nigeria’s first-ever World Cup goal. Overwhelmed with emotion and pride, he immortalized the moment by running to the net, embracing it with both arms, and exuberantly celebrating with tears of joy. Widely regarded as one of the most iconic goal celebrations in football history, the scene serves as the inspiration for today’s captivating Doodle artwork.
Throughout his illustrious career spanning over 14 years, Yekini remained a vital asset to the Super Eagles, including his participation in the 1998 World Cup. Across 58 appearances for Nigeria, he delivered an astounding 37 goals, a record that stands unbroken to this day.
On the occasion of Rashidi Yekini’s birthday, the global football community celebrates the enduring legacy of a true football legend.