By Adebayo Abubakar
Dear esteemed readers, we are, this week, compelled to tilt towards sports. This is so, considering the fact that, Sports is now a global religion, to which, almost, everybody is an adherent. So please, if you are a faithful, let’s go.
On the 27th of August 2020, the Kwara Football House, named after the first Chairman of the Kwara State Football Association, Alhaji Shehu Usman Mustapha, was commissioned, amidst pomp and circumstance.
The number one football person in Nigeria, President of the Nigeian Football Federation, NFF, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, alongside his secretary, Dr. Sanusi Mohammed was in town, as the special guest of honour.
The chief host of the epoch-making event was the Executive Governor of Kwara State, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq.
The first democratically elected Chairman of the Kwara State Football Association, Mallam Idris Abdullahi Musa Thuraya was beaming with an aura of accomplishments, as the completion and commissioning of the edifice, was part of his numerous achievements in his first year in office.
In his opening remarks, the NFF chairman said, he feels honoured to be welcomed to the home-state of the all-time highest goal scorer for the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles.
For the records; late Rashidi Yekini, born October 23, 1960, in Ira, Oyun local government area of Kwara State, spent greater part of his Nigerian life outside Kwara State, in Oyo and Kaduna States. He died in Ibadan, the Ọ̀yọ́ State capital, on May, 4, 2012.
He played, 58 times, and scored a whooping 37 goals, for the Super Eagles; that makes him the highest goal scorer in the history of the Nigerian national team, as of today.
When Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq arrived; Amaju, began his address, by saying he wanted to make a request on the Governor; and the Governor gave him the go-ahead.
He said if he goes to Lagos, he sees, Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere; in Bayelsa, he sees Samson Siasia Stadium, Yanagoa; in Portharcourt, he sees, Adokiye Amasiemeka Stadium. Teslim Thunder Balogun, Adokiye Amasiemeka and Samson Siasia, all had illustrious careers with the Super Eagles of Nigeria, during their respective playing days.
He said, he has been looking forward to seeing the same thing “a stadium named after a Kwaran, who did the nation immense proud” in Kwara State, which happens to be the home-state of the all-time highest goal scorer for the country’s national team.
He therefore used the opportunity to table the request of having the magnificent Kwara State Stadium complex, named after the late King of Goals.
In his response, the Governor said, the request has to be written, so as to make it formal, and then subject it to due process of law of the State.
Sometimes in September last year, about a month after Amaju’s request, the Governor visited the Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, in Abuja, and a statement issued from the office of the Minister quoted Governor Abdulrazaq to have announced that, progress has been made in immortalizing the football icon by naming the Kwara State Sports Complex Stadium Ilorin after him.
He reportedly said, “We will send a bill to the State House of Assembly to immortalize Rashidi Yekini with the name of the stadium changing after the approval”.
The Minister was also said to have told the Governor about the series of letters that the ministry wrote to the Kwara State Government for the immortalization of the late football legend.
These signals emanating from powerful places, no doubt, raised hopes among Yekini’s numerous fans across the globe. But later, feelers indicate that, some people, within Sports circle in the State, are averse to the idea of immortalising the late “Goal King”, on the grounds that, he did not do anything for, or in, the State (whatever that means).
I have been able to interact with a handful of people who belong to the School of Thought, that he did not do anything for the State; and they said, if Amaju is desirous of having a stadium named after Yekini, he should go and build one and name same after the former Vitoria Setubal of Portugal goal poacher.
In fact, they sound as if naming the stadium after Yekini entitles him or members of his family, whether posthumously or otherwise, to a monetary benefit.
Rashidi Yekini did not build Hospitals, Schools or construct roads in Kwara State. Yes. He never did.
Something they seem to get wrong is that; if you feel, a living Rashidi Yekini was not, or did not make himself, useful to you; what about you putting into good use, the “Goodwill”, the reputation he garnered and left behind?
Let us look at it this hypothetical way; the State-owned Nigerian Professional Football League, NPFL, side, Kwara United Football Club is looking for foreign sponsors or partners, or even off-season friendly matches, to keep the team in shape for a forthcoming season; especially now that the team is giving us the fans, a glimmer of hope that a continental ticket for the next season, is a possibility; and the technical crew, while negotiating, the prospective partners request for the team’s profile; and while rummaging the team’s profile on the NPFL website, and come across such information as;
“Kwara United; Home ground, Rashidi Yekini Stadium, Ilorin.
Considering the fact that, he played for such illustrious European sides as Victoria Setubal of Portugal, Olympiakos of Greece, Sporting Gijon of Spain, FC Zurich of Switzerland, among others; and the possibility of these football agents knowing him on account of his goal-scoring exploits, it would add more credibility to the proposal of the Kwara United team officials, who are negotiating the deal, thereby making the job relatively easy for them.
Imagine a Victoria Setubal, or an Olympiacos, signing a technical agreement with United, in the areas of Players’ development and transfer; imagine how much of revenue boost it will be for the Harmony Warriors!
So what I am saying in essence is that; naming the edifice after Rashidi Yekini, would only translate to one thing, and that is; a living Yekini that you feel did not identify with the State, even though, he never denied being from the State, could be useful, even in death, if we put to good use, the brand his name represents, both nationally and globally.
Imagine the massive socio-economic benefits, a self-sustaining Kwara United, would bring to the State, in terms of taking away the attentions of our teeming youths, off crime, and gainfully employing them, if the revenue of the club is boosted through commercial deals with these European clubs.
Another diplomatic advantage, derivable from granting Amaju/NFF/Sports Ministry’s request is that; it would be pretty easy to make a case for the stadium to host international matches, especially the ones involving the Super Eagles. I don’t think I need to start enumerating the.. derivable advantages from this.
The fortunes that a Taiwo Awoniyi, or an Olusegun Olakumle will amass playing Professional football in Europe, will rub off on many in their families and neighbourhoods.
Let us see beyond petty and parochial sentiments, and see the big picture.
Adebayo Abubakar writes from Ilorin.