Augustine Azuka "Jay-Jay" Okocha (// ə-KOTCH-ə; born 14 August 1973) is a Nigerian former professional footballer who played as an attacking midfielder. A quick and skillful playmaker, who is considered as the best Nigerian and one of the best African players of all time, Okocha was known for his confidence with the ball, technique, creativity, and dribbling skills, as well as his use of feints, in particular the stepover. Due to his skill, 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).
Okocha playing in a 2017 charity match
|Full name||Augustine Azuka Okocha|
|Date of birth||14 August 1973|
|Place of birth||Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria|
|Height||1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)|
|Playing position||Attacking midfielder|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Augustine Azuka "Jay-Jay" Okocha was born in Enugu, Enugu State. His parents were from Ogwashi-Uku, Delta 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.
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 William 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 FC.
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 was laid during his time there.
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 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.
On 21 February 2015, Okocha was elected as the Chairman of the Delta State Football Association.
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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.
Okocha is from Anioma, a subgroup of Igbo ethnic derivative. 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 Arsenal and Nigeria.
|Nigeria national team|
- Scores and results list Nigeria's goal tally first.
|1||3 July 1993||Lagos, Nigeria||Algeria||4–1||1994 World Cup qualifier||1|
|2||11 June 1995||Boston, United States||United States||2–3||1995 US Cup||1|
|3, 4||23 January 2000||Lagos, Nigeria||Tunisia||4–2||2000 African Cup of Nations||2|
|5||13 February 2000||Lagos, Nigeria||Cameroon||2–2||2000 African Cup of Nations||1|
|6||17 June 2000||Lagos, Nigeria||Sierra Leone||2–0||2002 World Cup qualifier||1|
|7||1 July 2001||Omdurman, Sudan||Sudan||4–0||2002 World Cup qualifier||1|
|8||26 March 2002||London, England||Paraguay||1–1||Friendly||1|
|9||26 July 2003||Watford, England||Venezuela||1–0||Friendly||1|
|10||31 January 2004||Monastir, Tunisia||South Africa||4–0||2004 African Cup of Nations||1|
|11||8 February 2004||Monastir, Tunisia||Cameroon||2–1||2004 African Cup of Nations||1|
|12||11 February 2004||Tunis, Tunisia||Tunisia||1–1||2004 African Cup of Nations||1|
|13||13 February 2004||Monastir, Tunisia||Mali||2–1||2004 African Cup of Nations||1|
|14||18 June 2005||Kano, Nigeria||Angola||1–1||2006 World Cup qualifier||1|
- Africa Cup of Nations: 1994; runner up: 2000; third place: 2002, 2004, 2006
- Afro-Asian Cup of Nations: 1995
- Summer Olympic Games: 1996
- Goal of the Year (Germany): 1993
- Nigerian Footballer of the Year: 1995, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005; 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
- BBC Goal of the Month: April 2003
- Premier League Player of the Month: November 2003
- African Cup of Nations Golden Boot: 2004
- African Cup of Nations Best Player: 2004
- Bolton Wanderers Player of the Year: 2004–05
- Hugman, Barry J., ed. (2008). The PFA Footballers' Who's Who 2008–09. Mainstream Publishing. p. 319. ISBN 978-1-84596-324-8.
- "Is Okocha the best African ever?". BBC Sport. 11 April 2005. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Piers Edwards (13 October 2015). "History of the BBC African Footballer of the Year award". BBC Sport. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Sam Wallace (12 May 2003). "Okocha's dazzling feet set Allardyce off on survival jig". The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Ed Jones (6 April 2003). "Okocha leads by example". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Massarella, Louis (September 2004). Sleight, Hugh (ed.). "So good they named him twice". FourFourTwo. Teddington: Haymarket Magazines (121): 72–6. ISSN 1355-0276.
- "jay jay okocha vs KSC". 27 July 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- Olulana, Deji (4 January 2017). "Jay-Jay Okocha". PR2J3C4 - Nigeria @ Her Best. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
- Augustin Okocha Profile @ TFF.org
- "Okocha: "Fenerbahçe'ye hoca olmak istiyorum"" (in Turkish). ajansspor.com. 7 February 2019. Archived from the original on 8 February 2019. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
- "Okocha: Local Players Not 'Ripe' Yet". Thisday Live. 15 May 2012. Archived from the original on 15 October 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2012.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
- "Okocha joins Bolton". BBC Sport. 18 June 2002. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Desert Island Goals: Jay-Jay Okocha v West Ham". Manny Road. 5 October 2008. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- "Jay-Jay's triumph in our best goal vote". The Bolton News. 9 October 2008. Archived from the original on 24 April 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- Iles, Marc (25 May 2012). "Jay Jay drops a bombshell". The Bolton News. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- Egbokhan, John (23 February 2015). "Nigeria: Okocha Succeeds Pinnick As Delta FA Chairman". Vanguard (Lagos). Retrieved 14 May 2018.
- "Okocha wants to be President of NFF - Vanguard News". Vanguard News. 28 April 2015. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
- "Semi-final success unites Nigeria". BBC News. 11 February 2000. Retrieved 25 January 2009.
Two of the Super Eagles' top international stars, Arsenal star Nwankwo Kanu and Paris St Germain's Augustine 'Jay-Jay' Okocha are Ibo.
- "Academy". Arsenal F.C. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
- Passo Alpuin, Luis Fernando (31 July 2008). "Augustine Okocha – International Appearances". rsssf.com. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- Augustine Okocha – International Appearances Archived 16 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
- "August 1993 - Okocha" (in German). Sportschau. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
- "FIFA Technical Study Group designates MasterCard All-Star Team". FIFA.com. 10 July 1998. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
- "Jay Jay Okocha: Overview". Premier League. Retrieved 28 September 2018.