So good they named him twice- One of the most gifted players’ football has ever seen is celebrating his birthday today, and that is no other person than former Super Eagles star, Austin Jay-Jay Okocha.
Thank you Football Family! https://t.co/aRwYOet0XL
— Jay-Jay Okocha (@IAmOkocha) August 14, 2019
In terms of being naturally talented, only a few players that have played the game come close to Okocha. Known for his dribbling skills, techniques and the confidence he oozes on the ball, The former Nigerian international started his career with Enugu Rangers before joining Borussia Neunkirchen in Germany.
According to reports, Okocha joined the German side after he accompanied his friend to training and asked to join in. His performance that day made the manager invite him for training the next day before offering him a contract.
However, he only spent a year at the club before he was snapped up by Eintracht Frankfurt in 1992 where he spent four years. He ended his Germany adventure in 1996 by signing for Turkish side, Fernabache.
He spent two years in Turkey before joining Paris Saint Germain for 14m pounds which made him the most expensive African player as at that time. He made a total of 84 appearances for Les Parisiens, scoring 12 goals.
After spending four years in Paris, Okocha joined Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer. During his time with the Trotters, he helped them avoid relegation while he also led them to a League cup final.
He left the club in 2006 where he joined Hull City which turned out to be his last club before retirement. On the international scene, he made his Super Eagles debut in 1993 and was part of the golden generation that won the 1994 nations cup, reached the second round of the World Cup in 1994 and won a gold medal at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.
He retired from international football in 2006, winning a total of 74 caps for Nigeria, scoring 14 goals. In honour of his birthday celebration, Soccernet.ng takes a look at some of the greatest moments of his career.
Eintracht Frankfurt vs Karlsruher SC (Bundesliga, 1993): Okocha scored one of the greatest solo goals in the history of football in this game and what made it more impressive is that it was against one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time- Oliver Kahn.
Okocha received the ball from the edge of the area before twisting beyond Khan and a couple of defenders which left the former sprawling to the ground and fire into the net.
Nigeria vs Cameroon (AFCON,2004): Nigeria went into the game hoping to get one over their perennial rivals who have denied them in past AFCON meeting.
Things, however, started on a bad note for the Eagles as Samuel Eto’o put the Indomitable Lions in front in the opening thirty minutes. But, the Super Eagles drew level just a minute before the break, through Okocha’s well-taken freekick. It proved to be the catalyst Nigeria needed as they went on to win the game through John Utaka’s second-half goal.
Bolton vs Middlesbrough (Premier League,2003): Bolton went into the final day of the 2002/2003 season knowing anything less than a win means their stay in the topflight will be over. They got off to a perfect start as a Per Frandsen gave them an early lead.
But it was not until Okocha’s added a second with a brilliant freekick that the nerves were settled. Jay Jay’s goal turned out to be vital as Middlesbrough pulled one back in the second half but the Trotters held on to the win which ensured their stay in the topflight.
Nigeria vs Algeria (World Cup Qualifiers, 1993): In what just his second cap for Nigeria, Okocha showed he is a master at taking freekicks as he got Nigeria back on levelled terms with a perfect freekick after Algeria had taken the lead. The Super Eagles went on to win the match 4-1 but it was Okocha’s equaliser that put things into motion.
Nigeria vs Cameroon (AFCON, 2000): Cameroon silenced the Lagos crowd when they scored two quickfire goals in the final of 2000 Africa Cup of Nations.
But Okocha brought the Lagos crowd back to life with a brace including a brilliant second. Although Cameroon won that day via penalty shootout, it was one of Okocha’s finest performances in an Eagles shirt.