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Jay-Jay Okocha


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Nigeria

Jay-Jay Okocha

 

Augustine Azuka "Jay-Jay" Okocha (born 14 August 1973 in Enugu) is a Nigerian former professional footballer who played as an attacking midfielder. He is known for his stepovers, skill, technique, and being 'so good that they named him twice' (a line immortalised in a terrace chant while Okocha played for Bolton Wanderers). While playing at Süper Lig team Fenerbahçe, he became a Turkish citizen as "Muhammet Yavuz".

Career

Early years

Okocha's "Jay-Jay" name was actually passed down from his older brother James, who started playing football first. His immediate older brother Emmanuel was also called Emma Jay-jay, but the name stuck with Augustine. Okocha first began playing football on the street just like many other football stars, usually with a makeshift ball. Jay Jay Okocha was born in Enugu, Nigeria to Mr. & Mrs Okocha of Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State, Nigeria. In an interview with BBC Sport he said "as far as I can remember, we used to play with anything, with any round thing we could find, and whenever we managed to get hold of a ball, that was a bonus! I mean it was amazing!" Known for making the move,"Sambrarow Flick." In 1990 he 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. Later he travelled to Germany to meet a friend, where he was asked to train with his team after impressing in training, and landed a deal with German Third Division side Borussia Neunkirchen.

Eintracht Frankfurt (1992–1996)

Okocha joined Eintracht Frankfurt in 1992,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 Karlsruhe, dribbling in the penalty box and slotting the ball past Oliver Kahn even going past some players twice.[1] The goal was voted Goal of the Season by many soccer magazines. In 1995 Okocha, Yeboah and Maurizio Gaudino were all involved in a feud with manager Jupp Heynckes, which led to their departure from the club.

Yeboah and Gaudino later left for England, while Okocha stayed until the end of the season when Frankfurt were relegated to the Second division, before signing for Istanbul club Fenerbaçhe.

 



Fenerbahçe SK (1996–1998)

Okocha joined Turkish club Fenerbahçe following Eintracht Frankfurt's relegation to Bundesliga 2. In his two seasons with the team he amassed thirty goals in sixty appearances, many of them coming from direct freekicks which had become something of a trademark for him at the club. He was also part of the side that historically defeated Manchester United 1–0 at Old Trafford in the 1996-1997 UEFA Champions League group stage. While at Fenerbahçe he became a Turkish citizen as "Muhammet Yavuz".

Paris St-Germain (1998–2002)

In 1998 French side PSG splashed around $24 million on Okocha, making him the most expensive African player at the time.

Bolton Wanderers (2002–2006)

Okocha joined Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer after leaving PSG in the summer of 2002 after the FIFA World Cup[2]. His debut season, despite being hampered by injury, made him a favourite with the Bolton fans, with the team printing shirts with the inscription "Jay-Jay – so good they named him twice". He steered the team away from relegation with seven goals, including the team Goal of the Season in the vital league win against West Ham.[3] This was voted Bolton's best Premier League goal in a fans vote in 2008.[4] 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.

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 in order to move to Qatar.


Hull City AFC (2007–2008)

After just one season in Qatar, Football League Championship side Hull City signed Okocha on a free transfer in 2007, after the player had been linked to Real Salt Lake and Sydney FC. It was a move he made saying that "God had told him to do so". He however was not able to contribute greatly to Hull's promotion campaign due to fitness and constant injury problems, playing only 18 games and scoring no goals. Hull still succeeded in grabbing promotion to the Premier League, for the first time in their 104-year history. At the end of the season, after changing his mind on a proposed retirement due to Hull's promotion, he was released by the club, which sent him into retirement.

International career

Okocha made his official debut for Nigeria in their 2–1 1994 FIFA World Cup Qualifier away loss against Ivory Coast in May 1993.It was not until his second cap and home debut that he became a favourite with the Nigerian supporters. With Nigeria trailing 1–0 against Algeria, in a match they needed to win, he scored from a direct freekick to equalise, before helping the team to a 4–1 win, eventually securing qualification to their first World Cup. In 1994 he was a member of both the victorious 1994 Africa Cup of Nations squad and the World Cup squad who made it to the second round before they lost in a dramatic match against eventual runners-up Italy.

In 1996 Okocha became a member of an arguably more successful Nigerian side, their Olympic gold winning side at the Atlanta Games, later nicknamed Dream Team by the Nigerian press after the USA 1992 Olympic gold winning basketball team. In the 1998 FIFA World Cup hosted by France, Okocha played for a disappointing Super Eagles side who failed to live up to expectations again reaching the round of 16, albeit with less impressive performances save for their 3–2 opening win against Spain. This did not destroy interest in Okocha, who had entertained fans with his trademark skills and dribbles and went on to be named in the squad of the tournament.

Okocha again joined the Super Eagles as they claimed the silver medal in the 2000 African Cup of Nations co-hosted with Ghana. He had a fairly good tournament scoring three goals, two in the opening game against Tunisia and the third in the final against Cameroon, also converting his penalty in the shootout.

After a disappointing Nations Cup in 2002 where Nigeria ended up finishing third, Okocha was named Nigeria captain after Sunday Oliseh and Finidi George were axed from the side. His first tournament as captain came that summer in the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Korea and Japan. Playing in Group E, the ‘group of the death’ alongside Argentina, Sweden and England, Nigeria failed to make it to the next round gaining only one point in their final game, a goalless draw against England.

Okocha later led the Nigerian team to a third place finish at the 2004 African Nations Cup in Tunisia, with some breathtaking displays, scoring four goals which include a spectacular free kick against Cameroun in the quarter finals and most notably the 1000th goal in Nations Cup history against South Africa, and winning the Player of the tournament and joint Golden boot winner.

After failing to help Nigeria qualify for the 2006 World Cup, Okocha announced that he would retire from international scene after the Cup of Nations in Egypt. Injury prevented Okocha from featuring in any of Nigeria's opening fixtures and he did not regain fitness until the semi final loss against Ivory Coast. He then played in his final international appearance in a 2–1 victory in a third place playoff against Senegal, he was then given a standing ovation by the nearly 60,000 attendance when he left the field.

He made a return to the Super Eagles in his testimonial against an African select side in Warri. The game featured former players Daniel Amokachi, Alloysius Agu and John Fashanu, as well as current players Benjani and Sulley Muntari. Nigeria won the game 2–1 with Okocha scoring the winning goal after appearing for the side in the second half.

Individual Honours

Okocha never won the African Player of Year award, becoming arguably the best player never to win the award despite coming second twice in 1998 & 2004. 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). 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.

2004 BBC African footballer of the year 2005 BBC African footballer of the year 2005 Bolton Wanderers footballer of the year 1995,1997,2000,2002,2003,2004,2005 Nigerian footballer of the year 1996 Nigerian footballer of the year runner up
Personal life

Okocha met his wife Nkechi in 1994 and they have two children Daniella and A-Jay. His older brother Emmanuel was also a former international for the Nigerian team. Okocha is a cousin of Prof. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's former Minister of Finance, Foreign Affairs Minister and World Bank Managing Director. Okocha is also a member of the Anioma, a subgroup of Igboethnic group.

Okocha was named-checked in M.I.A's single "Paper Planes" featuring Afrikan Boy with the lyrics "I'm a legend, just like Jay Jay Okocha".

Sponsorships and other ventures

Okocha has appeared in commercials for Pepsi, Samsung, V-Mobile and B-29 (Nigerian washing soap powder). He released a DVD in 2004 titled Superskills with Jay-Jay, where he taught difficult tricks to children. He also briefly promoted his own brand of water named Jay-Jay during the late 90s. He also owns a bar in Victoria Island, Lagos named Number 10 (his jersey number).

 

 

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