Austin Jay Jay Okocha – Africa’s Best Mid Fielder

Born on the fourteenth of august 1973 (17/08/1973), weighs between 70 to 74kg, and between 1.7m to 1.75m tall.

Okocha started his professional career with CCB Lions, from where he was transfer to Enugu Rangers. From Enugu He got a transfer to Eintracht Frankfurt in 1992/1993 season. Okocha made his first international debut for Nigeria in May 1993 against coted’ivoire in a qualifier match decided n Abidjan and He distinguished himself by scoring Nigeria’s only goal in a game Nigeria lost by two goals to one (2-1). In another world cup qualifier against Algeria in Lagos Okocha scored a text book free kick to level up Algeria who were a goal up. His great performance ensured a four one (4-1) victory over the Algerians. The way he was carried shoulder high by ecstatic fans showed that he was indeed the hero of the day.

The 1994 nation’s cup was another sterling performance for Okocha’s career has his performance enable Nigeria to lift the trophy for the second time. He was as selected as the member of the tournament best eleven (11).

Three month months later Okocha was with the Nigeria’s squad after inspiring Nigeria to her first ever world cup appearance. Although his performance was slow down by a foot injury as He could only play ninety (90) minutes against Italy and He was voted the man of the match in the game which sent Nigeria packing from the world cup that year. However these feats were enough to earn him a place at the Africa footballer of the year in 1994.

In spite of Okocha’s achievement in 1994, in December 1994, he was sacked alongside two of his club mate; Ghanaian Tony Yeboah and ex German international Maurizio Gaudino, for an accusation the coach Jupp Heynckes define as gross indiscipline and insubordination. The trio went their separate ways Tony Yeboah and Maurizio Gaudino departed for Leeds United and Manchester City of England Respectively. Okocha shifted base to Turkey with Turkish Champion fernerbache in a lucrative two year contract worth $4million.

Notably the highlight of his stay at Frankfurt was the 1993/1994 season when one of his goals was adjusted the goal of the season. The goal was vintage, Okocha, as he displaced four opponents including the goalkeeper (please don’t ask the name of the goalkeeper) over and over again, before flashing the ball to the net.

Okocha chose Fernerbache ahead of other offers from Spain, France and even Germany because of his desire to play alongside his national team colleague Uche Okechukwu, who had joined Fernerbache to a second position finish in Turkish championship.

Okocha tasted international glory again when He came in as a substitute in Nigeria one zero (1-0) win over Uzbekistan in the return leg of Afro Asia Cup, before the afro Asia cup, He featured for Nigeria in the US Cup and scored in the three two defeat (3-2) defeat by the United State. Okocha’s great exploit got a Turkish citizenship and lots of publicity in1997 for his contribution to the progress of Turkish football. Okocha won the Turkish championship in 1996/1997 season scoring 16 goals in 33 matches and getting a place at the UEFA Champions League, he finished as one of the highest goal scorer in 1995/1996 and 1996/1997 with 14 and 16 goals respectively.

Okocha enriched his international career by winning by winning Africa’s first ever Olympic Gold medal in soccer with Nigeria U-23 team in Atlanta in 1996 scoring a twice taken penalty against Mexico in the quarter finals.

Okocha’s exploit at France 98 world cup where he rattled and dazzled against Spain, Bulgaria and Denmark. Jay Jay was marked the player of true class every time he got the ball, he made thousand of spectators shift on their seat contemplating what magic he would spring next. It was no surprise that he was nominated into the team of the tournament, even though as substitute.

France 98 coordinating president and the present UEFA president Michel Platini describe Okocha as one of the few pure number 10 remaining in the world football.

PSG manager Alain Giresse got romance with Jay Jay when he started the move that resulted in Nigeria’s only goal against Bulgaria at the Parc De Princes in Paris which incidentally is PSG home ground. The match ended 1-0 in favor of Nigeria. Okocha became the French record transfer and became the most expensive Africa player in the last Millennium with $18million transfer from Fernerbache to PSG.

Okocha got married in 1997 to Nkechi, and his first child was given birth to when the world cup was going on in 1998. the name of the child he named Daniella. He also has a son.

He was the continent best player at the France 98 world cup, he became the second best in Africa in 1998 when the Africa footballer of the year award was given to Hadji Mustapha of Morocco.

Okocha featured in the Nigeria/Ghana 2000 nation’s cup, a superb player scoring two of Nigeria’s 4-2 demolishing of Algeria. Okocha was red carded in the quarter final tie against Senegal. He missed the semi final match against South Africa and was on target for Nigeria in the final against Cameroon, scoring Nigeria equalizer goal riffling home a rocket shot, the match ended 5-3 on penalties the Cameroonians won.

At the 2002 nations cup Okocha passes and skills must not be written off as it posses threat to the opponent although he was denied of goal, his passes and skills were felt in the matches.

With the departure and dismissal of Super Eagles key players, another team was constituted, and Jay Jay Okocha was entrusted with the captainship role. Okocha captained Nigeria to the Korea Japan 2002 world cup, although it became Nigeria’s worse world when Nigeria was grouped alongside Argentina, England, and Sweden. Nigeria finished at the bottom of the table in the group but Jay Jay Okocha’s experience and skills earn him a move to Bolton Wanderers of England.

Okocha haven mentored players like Ronaldinho, and Everton Play maker Mikel Arteta at PSG, helped Bolton from relegation contender to UEFA cup contender. He was given the captainship responsibilities after his superb first season at Bolton.

Okocha was in the premier league best five in his second season at Bolton. Players like Sorensen of Aston Villa Ray Palour and Dennis Bergkamp of Arsenal will not forget for hia free kick and great skill. He help Bolton to her first Carling cup final and to the sixth position for the first time in decades.

His performance was superb as he led Nigeria to the Tunisia 2004, scoring the CAF nations cup 1000th goal in a 4-0 demolishing of South Africa. He drive home spectacular free kicks that ensure Nigeria qualify ahead of Cameroon in the quarter final. He was nominated for the Africa footballer of the year in 2004. He was the second best player in Africa on two occasion consecutively-2004 and 2005 respectively. He was the BBC Africa footballer of the year in 2004 and 2005 respectively.

Okocha was released from Bolton alongside Fadiga, N’Gotty and Matt Jensen. He decided to move to a Qatar on a lucrative one year contract half of what Tranbzonspor had offered him. He decided to move to Qatar ahead of Wigan, Reading and Everton.

Okocha came back to England as he was signed by a lower division who are now doing well in the premier league (Hull City). Although injury has been a major set back for Jay Jay, he was with the Hull City side defeated by Chelsea in the Carling Cup. Hull City remained the only club Okocha did not score. Hull city promoted to the premier league last season. He inspired Hull City to their promotion to the premier league and left the club after their promotion. With the departure of Okocha from the national team it will be difficult to find a replacement to fill that big shoe of Okocha. Although young players like Lukman Haruna and Rabiu Ibrahim are showing great class, demonstration and the potential to be the next Super Eagles play maker. It took eight Years to find a replacement for Green Eagles Mudashiru Lawal. Osaro Obaifo, John ENE Okon, Friday Ekpo could not replace Lawal on till the arrival of Austin Okocha. How long will it take to find a replacement for this great player called Okocha who bow out of football as a player on June 27, 2008 said Waidi Akanmu?

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