Jay Jay Okocha made an indelible mark on Nigerian football, entertaining us with his incredible abilities for decades.
The legendary former Super Eagles skipper is the quintessential generational talent, pulling off skills and tricks that other players wouldn’t even dream of attempting.
Up until now, the Super Eagles have got nowhere close to finding a replacement for the great man.
Not only is he a local hero, but the iconic No. 10 is also revered all over the world, seen as one of the finest footballers to grace the beautiful game.
Here are 10 things you should know about the former Eagles playmaker.
1. Okocha’s First Professional Club was Rangers International
Jay Jay’s career took him to many parts of the world, but his journey began from home, specifically Enugu, his city of birth.
Before crossing over to Europe and gaining all the adulation, Okocha’s football career kicked off with Rangers International of Enugu.
2. Jay Jay’s first European club was a third-division side in Germany
Okocha did not have a silver spoon and had to work his way up the football ladder. He didn’t attend any fancy European academies, nor bag a humongous contract first up.
He began his foreign sojourn in the obscure settings of Borussia Neunkirchen, a club competing in the third tier of German football at the time.
Germany would form the bedrock of Okocha’s career as he subsequently turned out for Frankfurt, with whom he spent four seasons up until 1996.
3. Jay Jay was at a time the most expensive African player
Nigeria might have crashed out in the second round of the FIFA World Cup in 1998, but one player who stood out was the mercurial Jay-Jay Okocha, who dazzled through the tournament, even in the 4-1 defeat to Denmark.
His World Cup performances, along with his antecedents in Germany and Turkey convinced French giants, Paris St. Germain to splash out a then African record, $14 million on the player.
No other player from Africa had cost as much at the time. Okocha spent four years in the French capital, scoring 12 goals in 84 matches.
4. Jay Jay never won a league title in Europe
For all of his incredible talents, Jay Jay Okocha never lifted a top-flight title in Europe. He won cups in Turkey and France, but never actually won the league.
5. Okocha never won the African Footballer of the Year award
It is one of the great travesties of African football that Jay-Jay Okocha, one of the continent’s most talented players ever, was never deemed worthy of the Footballer of the Year award all through his career.
Okocha was voted second in 1998, and third in 2003 and 2004, but he was never first.
If it’s any consolation for Jay Jay and his teeming Nigerian fans, it is that he was recognised as the BBC African player of the year in 2003 and 2004.
He was both top scorer and best player at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations.
6. Jay Jay is the greatest player to grace Bolton’s Reebok Stadium
Such is the magnitude of Okocha’s effect on Bolton Wanderers that he was voted the greatest player to play for the club.
In a poll organised by the club in 2017 and publicised on Social Media, Okocha was voted the best ever player at the Reebok/Macron Stadium, beating the likes of bustling forward, Kevin Davis, smooth French playmaker, Youri Djorkaeff, Finnish keeper, Jussi Jaaskelainen and Spaniard, Ivan Campo in the polls.
Okocha joined Bolton in 2002 and would become a true legend of the club.
Not only did he propel them to Premier League safety, but he also inspired a cup run that saw them just miss out on the Carling Cup title.
So good they named him twice indeed!
7. Okocha has Turkish citizenship
During his time at Fenerbahce, Okocha became a Turkish citizen, adopting Muhammed Yavuz as his Turkish name.
Jay Jay spent two seasons in Turkey, between 1996 and 1998.
8. Okocha played 73 matches for the Super Eagles
Jay Jay played 73 matches for the Super Eagles, which by international standards, is quite low for a player of his calibre.
He made his debut in May 1993, featuring in the 2-1 defeat to Ivory Coast in the 1994 World Cup qualifier.
He scored his first goal in the very next game, his home debut, bending in a free-kick as Nigeria fought back from a goal down to beat Algeria 4-1.
In all, he scored 14 goals in 73 matches, won an AFCON title in 1994, and was part of the triumphant U-23 team in Atlanta in 1996.
9. Jay Jay the Brand ambassador
Jay Jay Okocha has been retired for a few years now, but he is still much sought after by many brands hoping to leverage on his popularity.
He is mostly associated with the betting brand “BetKing”, rated as one of the biggest bookmakers in the country by betting experts, My Betting Sites Nigeria.
He has also endorsed Kwik Delivery, Xiaomi, 33, and many more brands.
10. Jay Jay the family man
Okocha is happily married to his wife, Nkechi. They are blessed with two kids, Danielle and Ajay.
Now you know a lot more about one of Nigeria’s greatest ever footballers!