People

Jay-Jay Okocha

QUICK FACTS

NAME
Augustine Azuka “Jay-Jay” Okocha

OCCUPATION
Professional Footballer

DATE OF BIRTH
August 17th, 1973

PLACE OF BIRTH
Enugu, Enugu State

234 LEGEND
 

Augustine “Jay-Jay” Okocha is a retired Nigerian professional footballer who played for several professional football teams in Africa and Europe. He played as an attacking midfielder and was celebrated for his outstanding dribbling skills and technique.

Background

Augustine Okocha was born on August 14th, 1973 in Enugu, Enugu State, to parents from Ogwashi-Uku in Delta State, Nigeria. Okocha, like his two elder brothers, James and Emmanuel, played football from a very young age, often in the streets. Goalposts were usually makeshifts poles and other objects, while the soccer ball was often made from random spherical objects. He started his professional career in 1990 when he signed for Enugu Rangers and showed so much promise with impressive performances in top flight games against highly ranked teams. In search of better opportunities, Okocha travelled to West Germany after the 1990 World Cup to watch German league football. He had the opportunity to attend a training session with German 3rd division side, Borussia Neunkirchen. During the team’s training session, Okocha was asked to participate. He impressed the team manager with his football skills and was subsequently offered a full trial the day after the training session.

Little Okocha

During the full trial, Okocha further impressed the Borussia Neunkirchen manager and was awarded a contract.

Professional Club Career

Okocha played for Borussia Neunkirchen for nearly two years and appeared in 35 games scoring 7 goals for the soccer club. In the summer of 1991, he signed with FC Saarbrucken, a German 2nd division club. However, he only played at the club for a couple of months before joining German Bundesliga side, Eintracht Frankfurt on a free transfer in January 1992. At Eintracht Frankfurt, Okocha would once again excel. His performances improved as he played alongside good players such as Ghanaian striker Tony Yeboah East Germany and unified Germany attacking midfielder Thomas Doll. One of Okocha’s most memorable goals came against Karlsruhe. During the game, he dribbled past several defenders multiple times and even overwhelmed the goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn, with his sleek skill. In 1993, the goal was voted Goal of the Season in Germany. However, despite several outstanding performances, Okocha departed Eintracht Frankfurt after four years without winning any major trophy.

In the summer of 1996, Jay-Jay moved to Turkey after signing with Fenerbahçe, Istanbul’s Turkish premier division side, for a reported amount of nearly €3.5 million. Okocha impressed at Fenerbahçe making 62 appearances and scoring 30 goals over two seasons. During his Fenerbahçe years, Okocha honed his game and became lethal at set pieces. A lot of his goals at Fenerbahçe came from free kicks and his fame steadily grew within the Fenerbahçe fan base. He was highly regarded and loved at the club, such that he adopted Turkish citizenship and a Turkish name; Muhammed Yavuz. Okocha won two cup medals at Fenerbahçe before moving away from Turkey.

Okocha at Fenerbahçe|Okocha at PSG

In July 1998, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), one of France’s biggest football clubs, paid about €13 million for Okocha, making him the most expensive African player at the time. In France, Okocha continued to be the talisman he had proven to be at Fenerbahçe and Eintracht Frankfurt. He dazzled with his mercurial skills in 84 appearances, scoring 12 goals in the process. While at PSG, a certain young player called Ronaldinho developed his football skills under the tutelage of Okocha. During his four years at PSG, Okocha went on to win two trophies: the Champions Trophy and UEFA Intertoto Cup. Following the 2001/2002 season, Okocha departed France during the transfer window.

Okocha moved across the English Channel to continue his football career in England, signing for Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer in July 2002. At Bolton, Okocha quickly became a fan favorite. Fans sang praises of him during games and added a slogan to his name: “Jay-Jay – so good they named him twice”. In his first season, Okocha helped Bolton Wanderers escape relegation and maintain Premier League status. In his second season, he had become the core of the team and was made captain. He shouldered the responsibility and led Bolton Wanderers to their first cup final in 2004, where they lost to Middleborough Football Club.

By the end of the 2005/2006 season, Okocha had lucrative offers from the Middle East. He turned down a contract extension at Bolton Wanderers but accepted an offer from Qatar SC. However, after only one year playing in Qatar, Okocha moved back to England to join Hull City Football Club. He was unable to fully contribute to Hull City’s campaign in the Championship due to injuries and lack of fitness. Nevertheless, the club was able to attain promotion to the English Premier League at the end of his first season at the club. Okocha’s one-year contract wasn’t extended and he decided to retire from the game.

International Career

Jay-Jay Okocha played for the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles, making his debut in a 2-1 defeat against Cote d’Ivoire in May 2013. He helped the national team qualify for the African Cup of Nations and World Cup in 1994 (Nigeria 1st time at the World Cup). 1994 was a remarkable year for the Super Eagles as they won the African Cup of Nations trophy and had an impressive debut appearance at the World Cup by reaching the 2nd round. Also, Okocha was a member of the Nigerian Olympic team, called the Dream Team, which won gold at the summer games in Atlanta in 1996. He made his 2nd World Cup appearance in France in 1998, but the Super Eagles did not advance beyond the second round.

He also featured for Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations co-hosted by Ghana and Nigeria in 2000, scoring three goals during the tournament. At the end of his professional career, he featured in a testimonial game organized in his honor between the Super Eagles and a select African side. The Super Eagles won the game 2-1 with Okocha bagging the winning goal.

Okocha in action for the Super Eagles of Nigeria

234 Impact


Jay-Jay Okocha was an amazing player. He was well-known for his mesmerizing skills, technique, dribbling and brilliant footwork. As a player, he was quite entertaining. Unfortunately, he never won the CAF African Player of the Year award. He came close in 1998 as runner up, but he remains one of the best African players never to win the award. and for once again making Nigeria a country to reckon with at the international level. As a result, true football fans remember the name Jay-Jay Okocha whenever they think of Nigerian football. Okocha was truly a master of his craft and he won several trophies during his career; both club and individual awards.

Club

  • Borussia Neunkirchen
    • Saarland Cup: 1990, 1992
    • Oberliga Südwest: 1991
  • Fenerbahçe
    • Chancellor Cup: 1998
    • Atatürk Cup: 1999
  • Paris Saint-Germain
    • Trophée des Champions: 1998
    • UEFA Intertoto Cup: 2001
  • Bolton Wanderers
    • Football League Cup: Runner-Up 2004
  • Hull City
    • Football League Championship play-off: 2008
  • Super Eagles
    • African Cup of Nations: 1994
    • Afro-Asian Cup of Nations: 1995
    • Olympic Games: 1996

Individual

  • Nigerian Footballer of the Year
    • 1995, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
  • Nigerian Footballer of the Year Runner up
    • 1996
  • African Footballer of the Year: Runner up
    • 1998
  • FIFA World Cup All-Star Team (Reserve)
    • 1998
  • BBC African Footballer of the Year
    • 2003, 2004
  • Goal of the Month (England)
    • April 2003
  • Premier League Player of the Month
    • November 2003
  • Bolton Wanderers footballer of the Year
    • 2005
  • FIFA 100

 

Sources:

  1. “Jay-Jay Okocha”. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 9 November. 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay-Jay_Okocha>.
  1. “Jay-Jay Okocha”. Transfer Markt. Web. 10 November. 2016. <http://www.transfermarkt.com/jay-jay-okocha/transfers/spieler/3708/transfer_id/5816>.

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