The former Nigeria international is revered in Germany for his goal against Oliver Kahn, which won him the goal of the year award.
Austin ‘Jay-Jay’ Okocha has pride of place among Eintracht Frankfurt fans, decades after he left the team. This week, when I visited the city to report a UEFA Champions League game, I asked club fans to identify a picture of the former midfielder and tell me their best memories.
The responses were quite illuminating as they recalled with fond memories of the time he spent in their city playing at the Deutsche Bank Park.
On that ground, he scored his most famous goal, an audacious dribble of the entire Karlsruhe defence and goalkeeper, before shooting the ball past an embarrassed Oliver Kahn into the goal.
That goal shot Okocha into instant fame in Germany and back home in Nigeria, where I saw replays on Ondo State television, OSRC. Thanks to the late Ayo Ogedengbe and Tunde Akinsemola, who made watching sports on TV memorable.
Initially, it was unbelievable that a Nigerian scored that magical goal. It was an audacious attempt that left everyone in Karlsruhe’s defence mortified. He was largely unknown back home, having yet to debut for the Super Eagles.
Okocha has explained his reasons for going the extra mile to humiliate them that day. At a sit down with him during a Bundesliga event in Lagos a few years ago, he mentioned that he had faced racist chants from the visiting fans and decided to punish their team by dribbling them to the moon and back.
At other times, he said he was only doing his job.
Whatever the real intention, the magical twists and turns, fakes and feints, produced an exceptional goal that remains remembered in Frankfurt and around Germany.
Thirty years post-facto, Frankfurt fans have not run out of adjectives to describe the experience they felt that long ago.
“Welt Klasse (world-class),” one fan told me.
“Legendäres Tor (legendary goal),” another declared.
The beauty of it was speaking to fans that watched the game live in the stadium on that day. That made my trip to Frankfurt beautiful.
However, my trip was more memorable because I witnessed another Nigerian, Victor Osimhen, score on that same ground. The stadium went quiet as the visiting Napoli fans chanted his name after the goal.
— Lolade Adewuyi (@Jololade) February 21, 2023
Three decades after Okocha’s magic, another Nigerian name rang out inside the Deutsche Bank Park on the night. The baton truly changed hands.
Some say football is just a spherical object chased by 22 men on a pitch. But every fan knows that it means much more than that. It creates memories and heroes.
And in Frankfurt, one Nigerian will remain part of the folklore forever. There is only one Jay-Jay Okocha.
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