“I will not talk of him, I told him to slow down on his excessive passion for football but he would not listen. He so lived and died for football. He was my friend but he was so much attached to football, he died while travelling to sort things out for Crown FC,” so lamented the former governor of Oyo state, Chief Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala recently, while asked by The Insight to comment on the 16 years remembrance of Alhaji Yekinni Yususf, the Ogbomoso late football enthusiast, popularly called, “Organizer.”
YK as he was fondly called devoted his life to football and by this contributed immensely to raising the level of the game in his native land. Between 1969 when he arrived in Ogbomoso from Ghana and 2004 when he passed on, he played football, coached football players, managed football teams, organized football competitions and administered football most excellently. At the time of his death on September 16, 2004, he was the team manager of Crown Football Club, Ogbomoso. He died at Ondo area on his way to defend a petition written by FC Ebeide against Crown FC, which could scuttle the latter’s attempt to escape relegation that season. The bus in which he was travelling that night after taking off from Iwo road, Ibadan, had a burst tyre in motion and he died in the resultant carnage.
YK in his youthful days played for many football clubs spread across Ghana and Nigeria. In Nigeria, he played for clubs like New Stars FC, Great Nassarawa FC (both in Ogbomoso), P & T FC of Ilorin and WNDC FC (3SC) of Ibadan. He was a regular for these clubs and at a time was called to the Nigeria’s senior national football team though failed to make selection. Among his contemporaries were Segun Odegbami, Adams, Ajala, Gbenga a.k.a. Ogiri, Layi, Kamaru Yellow, King Bello and so on.
After his playing days were over, he became a coach. His love for the round leather game never waned and so, he was involved widely in organizing several competitions. All football competitions in Ogbomoso including leagues had his imprint, and so successful was he in this enterprise that he earned the nickname, “Organizer.” Some Nigeria’s junior football teams played in the past against Ogbomoso’s selected teams at Ogbomoso Township Stadium (now Soun Stadium) especially in the late 80s and early 90s, staging these matches and presenting teams against national teams heavily devolved on him. Nothing of such could come up in Ogbomoso without his input. He was consulted on and was saddled with maters of football. Great footballers passed through his tutelage and his name would never be blotted out of football histories in the land of the valiant.
In the past football matches were played at the “public field” at Takie (a property that was later taken over by NITEL and now used as Civil Defence Area Command headquarters). When this field was closed to football activities, public secondary schools were negotiated for the use of their play grounds at different times but at the construction of Ogbomoso Stadium, Alhaji Yusuf was one of the men (some others are King Bello and Coach Adams) that traveled to Ibadan to converse with the Oyo State Sports Council on the release of the stadium for local football matches thus, in 1987, a new match venue was secured.
When Scorpion FC metamorphosed into Crown FC, courtesy of former president of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, Reverend Professor Yusuf Ameh Obaje, YK was around and he was later to be in the vanguard of efforts to make the team indigenous, a move resisted stoutly by Obaje and so, when this goal was achieved with Obaje voluntarily relinquishing it sequel to his appointment as chaplain of Aso Rock Villa Chapel, Abuja, YK was appointed Team Manager. Then Hon Fatai Buhari emerged chairman of the club and late Chief Layi Lagbemiro was general manager. But the romance was short-lived as he died within a year of bagging the appointment and so failed in notching up his ardent dream of seeing the club campaign the following season at the more prestigious premier league.
He was so fanatical about football and can well be described as a football incarnate. He ran a football shop, selling sports items at Orita-Naira area which is still being operated today.
An uncle to the late football manager, Alhaji Salawudeen Ibrahim, recalled how he persuaded YK against selling his properties to prosecute court case during the battle to indigenize Crown FC but that his nephew for the first time refused his advice.
“Yekeen always listened to me, he never went against my advice, but when I advised him against selling his properties in respect of a court case to make Crown FC an Ogbomoso owned club, he turned deaf ears on me,” his uncle said, while emphasizing YK’s fervor for the game and for his native land.
Also, Alhaji Sheu Babalola, a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police, also said of YK, “It is difficult to describe him. He was a great footballer, a great athlete, a good friend of mine, a very good brother. He was my closest friend, my best friend. He died while travelling on behalf of the town in respect of Crown FC. But we thank God his children are alive and are doing well.”
Olarinde Gbenga, a younger friend of YK, who in fact has the credit for this remembrance piece, described Alhaji Yekinni as “a football legend.”
Olarinde Gbenga, also known as “Sir G,” further stated, “He died an untimely death. May Allah grant his soul Aljanah Firdaus. I know for sure football followers will never forget Yekinni Yusuf for his massive contribution to football development in Ogbomoso.”
It was Sir G who also gave a little background about the football icon. According to him YK was born in Kumasi, Ghana, though of Akogun compound, Ijeru, Ogbomoso. He attended primary and middle school. His love for football blossomed from this time and he became an ardent supporter of Ashanti Kotoko FC of Kumasi. But his Ghana sojourn stopped when then Head of State, Busia, issued a quit order against aliens in Ghana in 1969. He returned to Ogbomoso with his parents and was admitted to Ogbomoso High School but because of his football prowess, Ogbomoso Grammar School that then placed higher premium on football snatched him and became a regular in the town’s premier secondary school football team. He went ahead to showcase his skills in the then popular Principal Cup. It needs be stated that from that time, he never looked back, his life revolved round football.
Alhaji Yekeen Yusuf is no more, but certainly, his imprint in football will echo till eternity. May his soul continue to rest in peace.