Augustine Azuka “Jay-Jay” Okocha born 14 August 1973 is a Nigerian former professional footballer who played as an attacking midfielder. Though Okocha is from Anioma, a subgroup of Igbo ethnic derivative, he also has Turkish citizenship as Muhammet Yavuz which he acquired while playing for Fenerbahçe.
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The Interesting Jay-Jay Story
Augustine Azuka “Jay-Jay” Okocha was born in Enugu, Enugu State, Nigeria. His parents lived in Iwo Local Government, Osun State, Nigeria. The nickname 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 Augustine 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!”–Augustine ‘Jay-Jay’ Okocha
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.
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Other interesting facts about Jay-Jay Okocha
- 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.
- 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.
- A quick and skilful 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 also played with 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.
- On 21 February 2015, Okocha was elected as the Chairman of the Delta State Football Association.
- In April 2015, Okocha expressed his interest in becoming the Nigeria Football Federation president; and he is vigorously pursuing it.
- In March 2004, he was named one of the top 125 living footballers by Pelé.
- Okocha joined Turkish club Fenerbahçe for approximately £1 million following Eintracht Frankfurt’s relegation to the 2nd division of the 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. It was while he was in turkey that he acquired Turkish citizenship as Muhammet Yavuz while playing for Fenerbahçe.
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