For using his compelling exploits in soccer to reinforce the position of his state, region and country on the world map; for demonstrating that passion is indeed an energy source for accomplishment of human dreams and for inspiring the youths to push ahead boldly with their aspirations in diverse arenas and conquer, Augustine Jay-Jay Okocha is The AUTHORITY on SATURDAY Icon.
He is quick and very skilful on the soccer ball – a passion that defined his life, fame and ultimately propelled him to captain the nation’s senior football team and play in some of the top clubs in Europe. He is widely regarded as one of the most creative Nigerian players of his generation and one of the greatest African players of all time. Talk about pace on the ball, technique, creativity, and dribbling skills, as well as the use of feints, in particular the step-over – then you’re talking about Augustine Azuka ‘Jay-Jay’ Okocha.
He was born on August 14, 1973, in Enugu and hails from Ogwashi-Uku in Delta State. The name Jay-Jay was actually passed down from his older brother, James, who started playing football first. His immediate older brother Emmanuel was also called Emma Jay-Jay, but the name stuck with Okocha. He began playing football on the street 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 then West Germany which 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. 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.
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 Karlsruhe, 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 soccer magazines, and also voted as 1993 Goal of the Year by viewers of Sportschau (an ARD German TV sports programme). In 1995, he left the club and later signed for the Turkish club side, Fenerbahçe.
After a successful stint with French side Paris Saint-Germain where he moved to from Fenerbahçe, he joined English Premier League side Bolton Wanderers. From Bolton, he stinted briefly with Qatar FC, in UAE (2006-2007) before he joined Hull City. In March 2004, he was named one of the top 125 living footballers by Pelé. He retired from active play in 2008.
On 21 February 2015, Okocha was elected as the Chairman of the Delta State Football Association. In April 2015, he expressed his interest in becoming the Nigeria Football Federation president. He is happily married to Nkechi Okocha and the union is blessed with two children, Daniella and A-Jay.