The Abedi Ayew (Pele) vs Rashidi Yekini debate is one that will never die down as long as African football lives on.
Both players are regarded as the best Africans of all time and are usually the yardstick of excellence to measure other footballers. But to ascertain which player was the better, let’s pitch their strengths and weaknesses against each other.
This is where Pele completely obliterates Yekini. Pele is one of the first African player to make an impact in European football. Pele was a key player of the Marseille team that dominated World football in the late 20th century. He won four league titles and got to the European Cup final twice. He eventually won the rebranded Champions League in 1993 for the first time in Marseille’s history. and was the “man of the match” in this historic win over
Yekini on the other hand was sort of a one season wonder. He scored 34 goals in 32 games in the Portuguese second division to help his team gain promotion. He maintained this momentum in the Portuguese top flight by scoring 21 goals, finishing as the highest goal scorer. The next season, he secured a move to Greek giants Olympiacos and this is where his retrogression began.
He failed to replicate his goalscoring form when the chips were down and became a journeyman, turning out for 8 more teams in Europe and Africa.
Both players shone for their national teams and scored a plethora of goals.
Pele scored 33 goals for his country in 73 games. And won the 1982 AFCON for them and was a constant feature for Ghana in the AFCON. He dominated this competition for over a decade and got the nickname ‘African Maradona’ after a spectacular solo run goal against Congo.
He was one of the first African football players to earn a top placing in FIFA World Player of the Year voting in 1991 and 1992. He has won the France Football African Player of the Year Award three times, was the inaugural winner of the BBC African Sports Star of the Year in 1992, and the corresponding Confederation of African Football award twice. He was also awarded the golden ball award for being the best player at the 1992 African Cup of Nations. Abedi holds the record for most appearances at the Nations Cup Finals.
Pele has participated in more FIFA organized charity matches than any other African player. Abedi Pele is a member of FIFA’s Football Committee, and of the player status committees of both FIFA and CAF. He captained both his national team and FIFA All-star teams.
With all of this honours and accolades Pele never featured in FIFA World Cup and this blights his otherwise very impressive CV.
Yekini is Nigeria’s all time leading goal scorer with 37 goals in 58 games. He historically scored Nigeria’s first ever World Cup goal in 1994 and engraved his name in World Cup stone with one of the most iconic celebrations ever.
Yekini helped the Super Eagles win the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia where he also topped the goal charts and was named best player of the competition. He also participated at Olympic level in Seoul 1988.
Both players are African greats and have built a legacy for themselves in African folklore and history. But it’s very obvious that Abedi Pele was the more complete player.
Yes, Rashidi Yekini went one step further by participating and scoring in the biggest stage, the FIFA World Cup, but Pele’s exploit at club level, international level and post-retirement level tips the balance heavily in his favour.
No wonder he has two great South Americans etched into his name: Adedi Pele Maradona Ayew.