Jay-Jay Okocha

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Jay-Jay Okocha
Match legends 2017 CC (5).jpg
Okocha playing in a 2017 charity match
Personal information
Full name Augustine Azuka Okocha
Date of birth (1973-08-14) 14 August 1973 (age 49)
Place of birth Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria
Height 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Position(s) Attacking midfielder
Youth career
Enugu Rangers
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1990–1992 Borussia Neunkirchen 35 (7)
1992–1996 Eintracht Frankfurt 90 (18)
1996–1998 Fenerbahçe 62 (30)
1998–2002 Paris Saint-Germain 84 (12)
2002–2006 Bolton Wanderers 124 (14)
2006–2007 Qatar SC 41 (6)
2007–2008 Hull City 18 (0)
Total 454 (89)
National team
1993–2006 Nigeria 73 (14)
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Augustine Azuka Okocha (/əˈkɒə/ ə-KOTCH; born 14 August 1973), commonly known as Jay-Jay Okocha, is a Nigerian former professional footballer who played as an attacking midfielder. He played 73 times for the Nigeria national team between 1993 and 2006, scoring 14 times, and was a member of three FIFA World Cup squads. He is regarded as one of the greatest football players from Africa.

He played across multiple leagues, starting his career at Enugu Rangers in the Nigerian Professional Football League before moving to Borussia Neunkirchen in Oberliga Südwest, Germany's third division in July 1990. He would play in the Bundesliga, Turkish Süper Lig, French Ligue 1, English Premier League, EFL Championship, and Qatar Stars League before his retirement in 2008.

Club career

Augustine Azuka "Jay-Jay" Okocha was born in Enugu, Enugu State. His parents lived in Iwo local Government, Osun 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. He began playing football on the streets just like many other football stars, usually with a makeshift ball.[citation needed]

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!" 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 Willy Okpara in a match against BCC Lions. Later that year, he went on holiday to West Germany, the country that had just won the 1990 FIFA World Cup, so he could watch German league football. His friend Binebi Numa was playing in the Third Division for Borussia Neunkirchen, and one morning Okocha accompanied Numa to training, where he 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, but stayed only a few months with the 2. Bundesliga side before a move to the 1. Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Eintracht Frankfurt

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. The goal was voted Goal of the Season by many football magazines, and also voted as 1993 Goal of the Year by viewers of Sportschau (an ARD German TV sports programme). 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 2. Bundesliga, before signing for the Istanbul club Fenerbahçe. In the Bundesliga he scored 18 goals in 90 matches.

Fenerbahçe

Okocha joined Turkish club Fenerbahçe for approximately £1 million following Eintracht Frankfurt's relegation to the 2. Bundesliga. In his two seasons with the team, he amassed 30 goals in 62 appearances, many of them coming from direct free kicks, which became something of a trademark for him at the club.

Okocha acquired Turkish citizenship and chose the name Muhammed Yavuz while playing for Fenerbahçe.

Paris Saint-Germain

In 1998, French side Paris Saint-Germain spent around £14 million to sign Okocha, making him the most expensive African player at the time. During his four-year stint with PSG, he played 84 matches and scored 12 goals. He has also served as a mentor, at the time, for young Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho during his time in Paris.

Bolton Wanderers

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". 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 United. 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.

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.

Following Bolton's relegation from the Premier League in 2012, Okocha stated that his time at the club was now rendered a waste of time, because the club had not invested and improved on the foundations that were laid during his time there.

In 2017, Okocha was voted the best player to have ever played for Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok/Macron Stadium.

Hull City

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".[citation needed] 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 winning 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 ultimately 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 free kick 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 African 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 key member of an arguably more successful Nigerian side, their Olympic gold winning side at the Atlanta Games, later nicknamed the 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 in the 2000 African Cup of Nations co-hosted with Ghana. He scored three goals in the tournament, two in the opening game against Tunisia, and 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, John Fashanu, 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. In March 2004, he was named one of the top 125 living footballers by Pelé.

Style of play

A quick, talented, and skilful playmaker, Okocha usually played as an attacking midfielder, and is widely considered by certain pundits internationally as the best Nigerian footballer ever, and as one of the best African players of all time. He is still remembered by Fenerbahçe fans as one of the legends of the club and country. Okocha was known for his confidence and trickery with the ball, technique, creativity, flair, close control, and dribbling skills, as well as his turn of pace and his use of feints, in particular the stepover and his trademark turns. Due to his skill and nickname, he was described as being 'so good that they named him twice' (a line immortalised in a terrace chant while Okocha played for Bolton Wanderers). Despite his ability, however, he was also known for being inconsistent.

Post-playing career

On 21 February 2015, Okocha was elected as the Chair of the Delta State Football Association.

In April 2015, Okocha expressed his interest in becoming the Nigeria Football Federation president.

On 15 May 2016, Okocha played in a charity match as part of "Team John McGinlay" against "Team Tony Kelly" at the Macron Stadium and scored a hat-trick in his team's 6–2 win.

In June 2019, it was reported that Okocha had been charged with alleged money laundering in Scotland.

Okocha has served as a football pundit African sports broadcaster, Supersports since 2019, providing analysis for major tournaments, including the African Cup of Nations and the European championships.

On 14 November 2021, Okocha played in a charity match as part of a team of Bolton Wanderers Legends against the current Bolton first team with the match helping to raise money for the Mother of Bolton player Gethin Jones, who had been diagnosed with Motor neuron disease. The Bolton first team won 7–4, with Okocha scoring a penalty for the Legends team.

Personal life

Okocha is from Anioma, a sub-group of the Igbo people. His older brother Emmanuel is also a former footballer who played for the Nigerian national team. He has a nephew, Alex Iwobi, who plays for Everton and Nigeria.

Career statistics

Club

Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National Cup League Cup Continental Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Eintracht Frankfurt 1992–93 Bundesliga 20 2 3 1 3 0 26 3
1993–94 Bundesliga 19 2 2 0 4 2 25 4
1994–95 Bundesliga 27 7 2 0 7 0 36 7
1995–96 Bundesliga 24 7 1 1 4 3 29 11
Total 90 18 8 2 18 5 116 25
Fenerbahçe 1996–97 1.Lig 33 16 3 1 1 0 8 1 45 18
1997–98 1.Lig 29 14 0 0 2 0 31 14
Total 62 30 3 1 1 0 10 1 76 32
Paris Saint-Germain 1998–99 French Division 1 25 4 0 0 2 0 2 1 29 5
1999–2000 French Division 1 23 2 1 0 3 0 26 2
2000–01 French Division 1 16 2 1 0 1 0 6 1 24 3
2001–02 French Division 1 20 4 2 0 2 1 9 5 33 10
Total 84 12 4 0 8 1 17 7 112 20
Bolton Wanderers 2002–03 Premier League 31 7 0 0 0 0 31 7
2003–04 Premier League 35 0 0 0 6 3 41 3
2004–05 Premier League 31 6 1 0 1 1 33 7
2005–06 Premier League 27 1 3 0 0 0 7 0 37 1
Total 124 14 4 0 7 4 7 0 142 18
Hull City 2007–08 Championship 18 0 0 0 1 0 19 0
Career total 378 74 19 3 17 5 52 13 465 95

International

Appearances and goals by national team and year
National team Year Apps Goals
Nigeria 1993 3 1
1994 11 0
1995 5 1
1996 1 0
1997 5 0
1998 5 0
1999 1 0
2000 7 4
2001 8 1
2002 12 1
2003 3 1
2004 8 4
2005 2 1
2006 2 0
Total 73 14
Scores and results list Nigeria's goal tally first, score column indicates score after each Okocha goal.
List of international goals scored by Jay-Jay Okocha
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 3 July 1993 Lagos, Nigeria  Algeria 1–1 4–1 1994 World Cup qualifier
2 11 June 1995 Boston, United States  United States 1–0 2–3 1995 US Cup
3 23 January 2000 Lagos, Nigeria  Tunisia 1–0 4–2 2000 African Cup of Nations
4 2–1
5 13 February 2000 Lagos, Nigeria  Cameroon 2–2 2–2 2000 African Cup of Nations
6 17 June 2000 Lagos, Nigeria  Sierra Leone 1–0 2–0 2002 World Cup qualifier
7 1 July 2001 Omdurman, Sudan  Sudan 3–0 4–0 2002 World Cup qualifier
8 26 March 2002 London, England  Paraguay 1–1 1–1 Friendly
9 26 July 2003 Watford, England  Venezuela 1–0 1–0 Friendly
10 31 January 2004 Monastir, Tunisia  South Africa 2–0 4–0 2004 African Cup of Nations
11 8 February 2004 Monastir, Tunisia  Cameroon 1–1 2–1 2004 African Cup of Nations
12 11 February 2004 Tunis, Tunisia  Tunisia 1–0 1–1 2004 African Cup of Nations
13 13 February 2004 Monastir, Tunisia  Mali 1–0 2–1 2004 African Cup of Nations
14 18 June 2005 Kano, Nigeria  Angola 1–0 1–1 2006 World Cup qualifier

Honours

Borussia Neunkirchen

Fenerbahçe

Paris Saint-Germain

Bolton Wanderers

Hull City

Nigeria U23

Nigeria

Individual

See also

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by Nigeria captain
2002–2006
Succeeded by