The Untold Story Behind Jay Jay Okocha’s Passion For Football And His Achievements
Austin Okocha is a well known Nigerian footballer. Before moving to German ‘Eintracht,’ for a while, he played for ‘Enugu Rangers.’
He then played in such prestigious clubs as ‘Fenerbahce’ (Turkey), ‘PSG’ (France), and ‘Bolton Wanderers’ (England). Austin Okocha won the African Nations Cup (1994).
Besides, he got second place in 2000 and third place in 2002, 2004 and 2006. Also, Okocha played for ‘Super Eagles’ at its first ever World Cup in 1994 and then in 1998 and 2002.
He is a former African Player of the Year. Moreover, Austin Okocha was part of the Nigerian football team when Nigeria won a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.
Augustine Azuka “Jay-Jay” Okocha was born on the 14th day of August 1973 in Enugu State, Nigeria. He was born to his parents, Mr and Mrs Azuka Okoch who hailed from Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State, Nigeria.
The name Jay-Jay was passed down from his elder brother James, who started playing football first. His immediate elder brother, Emmanuel was also called Emma Jay-jay, but the name stuck with Okocha instead.
Jay-Jay Okocha began playing football on the streets just like many other football stars, usually with a makeshift ball.
In 1990, Okocha joined Enugu Rangers. In his time at the club, he produced many spectacular displays including one where he rounded off and scored a goal, against experienced Nigerian goalkeeper William Okpara in a match against BCC Lions.
Below is him being congratulated by a Nigerian Government Sports official:
In the same 1990, Okocha went on holiday to West Germany, the country that had just won the 1990 FIFA World Cup, so he could watch a German league football. His friend Binebi Numa was playing in the Third Division for Borussia Neunkirchen.
Okocha accompanied Numa to training, where he was asked to join in. The Neunkirchen coach was impressed with Okocha’s skills and invited him back the next day before offering him a contract. A year later, he joined 1. FC Saarbrücken.
Okocha joined Eintracht Frankfurt in December 1991, where he linked up with many well-known players including Ghanaian international striker Tony Yeboah and later Thomas Doll.
He continued to shine for the German side, one highlight being a goal he scored against Karlsruher SC, dribbling in the penalty box and slotting the ball past goalkeeper Oliver Kahn even going past some players twice.
On 21 February 2015, Okocha was elected as the Chairman of the Delta State Football Association. In April 2015, Okocha expressed his interest in becoming the Nigeria Football Federation president; and he is vigorously pursuing it.
Okocha joined Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer after leaving PSG in the summer of 2002 after the FIFA World Cup. His debut season, despite being hampered by injuries, made him a favourite with the Bolton fans, with the team printing shirts with the inscription “Jay-Jay – so good they named him twice”.
This was voted Bolton’s best Premier League goal in a fans vote in 2008. The next season saw Okocha receive more responsibility as he was given the captain’s armband following Guðni Bergsson’s retirement.
As captain, he led Bolton to their first cup final in nine years where they finished runners-up in the 2004 Football League Cup to Middlesbrough FC.
In 2006, he was stripped of the captaincy – something he said he had seen coming, as there had been a change in attitude from some staff members. This had probably been due to his proposed move to the Middle East, which had been growing in speculation. At the end of the season, he refused a one-year extension to move to Qatar.
In essence, Okocha is natural born leader who have worn the iconic number 10 shirt with a captaincy leadership role.
His older brother Emmanuel was also a former international for the Nigerian team. Okocha is also a member of the Anioma, a subgroup of Igbo ethnic derivative. His nephew is international footballer Alex Iwobi
He did, however, win the inaugural BBC African Footballer of the Year and the successive one, becoming the only player to retain the award and win it more than once.
In 2004, he was listed in football legend Pelé‘s FIFA 100 (a list of the greatest 125 living players of all time). He is the only Nigerian on the list, and one of 5 Africans.
In 2007, he was voted number 12 on the greatest African footballers of the past 50 years list, on a poll conducted by CAF to coincide with their 50th anniversary.