Accounts from neighbours and associates paint a picture of a man who struggled with serious mental and delusional disorder after losing life savings to a bungled investment.
One neighbour spoke of his losing life savings to a sham investment, and another recalled seeing him frequently around women selling Bóle (roasted plantain); and on two occasions, he answered nature’s call by a roadside in Ibadan where he lived away his final days.
Then, a former teammate conjectured how a disheartening jeering from fans during a crucial match that turned out his last international showing, haunted him to a bitter end.
Those who met Rashidi Yekini within the last one year say at least one of those episodes played a role in his unexpected death last week.
“I guess he died of depression,” one neighbour said.
But after agonizing years in his own world, only in death would the former striker, who almost singlehandedly served Nigeria vital football wins, evoke such complex tales that offer a glimpse into a personal struggle with insecurity and despair, again pointing out the question of whether the authorities or even friends could have been helpful in saving the former superstar.
A day after his funeral in his Irra town in Offa, Kwara state, the talk in this local community remained the sad exit of one of their prominent sons whose achievements as Nigeria’s most prolific scorer has not been equalled yet.
“We tried all that we can do in our own capacity but the cruel hands of death still took him away from us. We only hope and pray for eternal rest for his soul,” said Mohamodu Mudasiru Adetunji ( the Esa of Irra), who was also Mr. Yekini’s uncle.
For much of his playing days, dating back to an active international career in which he netted 37 goals in 58 matches, Yekini worked hard to stay off the prying eyes of the media.
The line, “his games spoke for him”, came true.
But that seemingly evasiveness would eventually help conceal a fatal and terminal trouble that afflicted Yekini for more than five years, those who were close to him said.
“We all loved him but for reasons I can’t explain he did not want to socialize with people a reason I feel had effects on him on the long run,” said Dimeji Lawal, a former youth international who lives in Ibadan, and knew Yekini for many years.
“We would have loved to help Yekini in our little way but until his last days, he wasn’t really accessible.” Mr. Lawal described Yekini as a philanthropist who did all in his power to help the course of others.
After retiring from international and club football, Yekini led a low profile life in Ibadan, living in a four bedroom apartment on Ring road, reports say, away from his family who stayed in his hometown in Kwara state.
On his website, former teammate and defensive midfielder, Sunday Oliseh, called Yekini “one of the best African players and legends to ever walk this earth.”
But Oliseh reckoned that somehow a world cup match in which Yekini featured and was booed by fans as he was nearing retirement played a devastating role in the former striker’s end.
“Yekini felt betrayed and this haunted him till his death,” Oliseh wrote. “How could one give so much and receive so little in return from your own kind?” he asked.
More than that possibly haunted Yekini. Oliseh recalls the Super Eagles’ African nations’ cup triumph of 1994 in which Yekini played a key role, and winning the vital matches for Nigeria.
“Almost 20 years after this major conquest, Yekini is yet to receive the house the Nigerian government promised him,” Oliseh said.
“In other words, he died not being rewarded for his efforts to make Nigeria great.”