FIFA, PSG, CAF, fans celebrate magical Jay Jay at 50
.Oborevwori: Deltans are proud of your many achievements
World football governing body, FIFA, Confederation of African Football (CAF) and Paris Saint-Germain, have sent birthday greetings to legendary Nigerian captain, the midfield impresario and one of the country’s most gifted players in history, Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, who turned 50 yesterday.
Also, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and Bolton Wanderers sent birthday wishes to the iconic midfielder.
“One of football’s greatest magicians,” FIFA wrote on Twitter. “So good they named him twice, Happy 50th Birthday Jay-Jay Okocha!”
CAF stated on their Twitter handle: “Happy Birthday to Nigeria’s legend Jay-Jay Okocha!.”
According to PSG: “Happy birthday to the magician, Jay-Jay Okocha!.”
Commenting on his birthday celebration, the NFF said: “Happy birthday to former Super Eagles midfielder and captain, Augustine ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, who turns 50 today. Hearty cheers Jay Jay!”
Bolton also celebrated their former captain: “Happy birthday Jay Jay Okocha.”
The dribbling wizard was born on August 14, 1973 in Enugu. Okocha began his football career with Rangers International Club of Enugu and made his maiden appearance for the country at the U-20 AFCON in the island country of Mauritius, in January 1993.
Governor Sheriff Oborevwori of Delta State yesterday congratulated multi- Jay-Jay Okocha. Okocha, one of Africa’s best-known midfield impresario of all-time, was honoured with the African Legend award and the BBC African Player of the Year award in 2004 and emerged the Best Player and Top Scorer at the African Cup of Nations finals in Tunisia in the same year.
He also captained the Super Eagles at the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals in Korea/Japan. Okocha won 73 caps for the Nigeria National team between 1993 and 2006, scoring 14 goals, and was a member of three FIFA World Cup squads.
Oborevwori in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sir Festus Ahon, in Asaba, said Jay-Jay Okocha was a quintessential footballer whose contributions to the development of Nigeria and world football were remarkable.
He extolled the former Eintracht Frankfurt, Paris Saint-Germain F.C. and Bolton Wanderers attacking midfielder for his patriotism, humility, mentorship and support to budding talents, adding that he remained a good ambassador of Delta.
The governor remarked that as a footballer of great talent, Okocha brought his many years of experience to bear when he led the Delta Football Association, DFA from 2015 to 2019.
Oborevwori said: “As one of the most talented footballers Delta has produced, we are proud of your many achievements in the round leather game.
“As you turn 50, your family, associates and admirers, have cause to be grateful to Almighty God for having granted you a life of wonderful accomplishments.”
He prayed God to bless Okocha’s path and make him a symbol for the motivation of youths in Delta and the country.
A cross-section of his fans said Jay Jay deserved to be celebrated for a life dedicated to the service of his fatherland. They said that he brought joy to his fans and lovers of the round-leather game across the globe.
Emmanuel Uzor, the Chief Press Secretary to former governor David Umahi, described Jay-Jay as “easily Nigeria’s most celebrated player on national team honours.”
Uzor said: “Jay-Jay won gold at the I994 AFCON and the 1996 Olympic Games, a silver medal at AFCON 2000 and bronze medal at the 2002, 2004 and 2006 AFCONS. He was the mainstay of the squad which ensured the country’s first World Cup appearance in 1994 and a top-notch player in France 1998.”
A member of the Board of Ebonyi Football Association, Ikenna Odo, described Okocha as “a skills workshop”, who kept fans at the edge of their seats each time he was in action.
“Pa Jay was described by the late football icon, Pele, as one of the greatest footballers to have existed and his skills brought such global review to him.
“It is a fact that the country has not found his replacement upon his retirement in 2006, with the Super Eagles fortunes dropping since then,” he said.
Okocha made his debut for the Super Eagles in 1993 against Côte d’Ivoire and over the years has been so many things to so many people.
To Brazil great, Ronaldinho Gaucho, Okocha is “one of the No. 10s I’ve always admired”. To Senegal icon, El Hadji Diouf, Okocha is “the most talented player I’ve ever seen”.
To Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, Okocha “scored the most spectacular goal in German football history.” To former AC Milan defender, Taribo West, Okocha “was a better player than Zidane”.
To Bolton Wanderers’ greatest ever manager, Sam Allardyce, Okocha’s tricks on the ball were extraterrestrial, “there’s been no one else like him, not even Cristiano (Ronaldo)”.
To George Weah, Africa’s only recipient of the Ballon d’Or, “all the things Okocha does on the ball, I can’t even do one per cent of it.”
To Fenerbahçe fans, Okocha is Africa’s football magician. He played football in a way many had never seen before him.
Okocha had a new bag of tricks for every game; he danced past opponents with remarkable ease and scored free-kicks from impossible distances and angles. They loved him and gave him Turkish citizenship and a new name – Muhammed Yavuz.
On one of Okocha’s recent trips to the club, 25 years after leaving, fans still sang his name, while former Arsenal ace Mesut Ozil was delighted to meet his childhood idol.
Paris Saint-Germain had to pay an African record transfer fee to tempt Fenerbahçe to part with their prized asset after the FIFA World Cup in 1998. Okocha joined Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer after leaving PSG in the summer of 2002 following the FIFA World Cup.
He spent four years at Bolton and left the club as the best player to have ever played for the Wanderers at the Reebok/Macron Stadium. Bolton fans can never forget that Okocha wonger-goal against West Ham United that would later win the team’s Goal of the Season. The goal would also later be chosen as Bolton’s best-ever Premier League goal by a fan vote in 2008.
Since he left in 2006, Bolton have not had a player as gifted or as celebrated as the former Super Eagles skipper.
To Nigerian fans, Okocha is a living legend, the ball juggler who convinced millions he was a playmaker. He was no Maradona. He was no Pele. He was no Zidane. He had a bit of all of them and then some.
There was none like him before him, and no one has come close to picking up the mantle he dropped in the national team since he departed the scene.
Okocha retired in 2008 after short stints at Qatar SC and Hull City, but occasionally he emerges to remind fans of what they are missing.
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