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Opinion: Why we haven't found a new Jay-Jay Okocha yet


/ by Biyi Akangbe

By: Obiweluozo Martins

Over the years the Nation has struggled to replace Nigeria football dynamite, the talented Austin (Jay-Jay) Azuka Okocha. Since 2006 he retired from the National team, almost ten years ago, the Nigerian National team cannot boast of a player nearly as good as he was.

Even though Jay-Jay is arguably Nigeria greatest player ever, with talents from the 80’s and 90's like Christian Chukwu, Segun Odegbami, Etim-Esin, Thompson Oliha, Samson Siasia and Daniel Amokachi one will believe that Nigeria should be able to easily find a replacement, but all in all it had been a big task for Africa most talented and populous nations.

The need for a Jay-Jay is increasing by the day as Nigeria continues to struggle in midfield.

SoccerNet Nigeria's contributor Obiweluozo Martins takes a look at why there is an unending search for Jay-Jay.


Dribbling master (Okocha) yet to find a successor in the Super Eagles.

The truth of the matter is that Jay-Jay Okocha was so outstanding that finding a replacement would be like a camel passing through the eye of a needle. The man was so good that they named him twice (Jay-Jay).

Jay-Jay Okocha with his number 10 shirt left a huge gap in Nigeria’s football trajectory with his silky skills and deft touches. He was so good that you cannot fault his dribbling, and his body moment is second to none. But the reality is that such players do not come all the time.

They are rare breed of player just as the case in Brazil, they have struggle to find a new Ronaldinho that even with the talent of Neymar, Oscar, Willian, Brazilians would argue that no one is near Ronaldinho Gaucho, such was the case of Nigeria’s Jay-Jay that even players like Wilson Oruma and Christian Obodo (bundle of skills) was still peripheral to the drilling master Okocha.

Though Jay-Jay can be replaced but Nigerians should be patient to know that such player are rare and are not easily found out. Some of those players are not in football academics and that makes it even difficult to identify them. Okocha was a blessing to the entire nation and drew followership worldwide.

As we continue to find a replacement for that special number 10 Nigerians must bear in mind that such players like Jay-Jay do not come in all generation. They are once in life time players, just as Ronaldinho of Brazil that Neymar and even Douglas Costa of Bayern Munich cannot replace.


John Obi Mikel, the victim of over expectations.

During the exit of Jay-Jay Okocha in 2006 saw the emerged of an 18 years old prodigy in the mould of John Obi Mikel, he was outstanding in the World Youth Championship in Holland 2005. All hope was that Nigeria has found a Jay-Jay Okocha but the fact that at such a young age without the much needed quality around the young lad expectation overwhelmed him especially as regards to replacing highly talent veteran in Austin Okocha.

Expectation was too much that Nigerians failed to understand that Mikel strength do not lie on his dribbling but on his vision and ability to pick a pass when in transition down the opponent area.

If Nigeria must find Okocha’s replacement, there is a need to lower expectations so that the players can settle and build confidence in that position for positivity in future.


Rabiu Ibrahim, a talent not properly mentored

Lack of mentorship has also played its own role as the search for a mercurial midfielder continues even when the destiny lies in our own hands. When a talented player is not properly mentored he makes errors in venturing into signing wrong contracts which is not going to aid his development such was the case of Rabiu Ibrahim and another young talented prodigy in person of Chidi Osuchukwu.

With all the talent they posses in their famous left foot they have not really lived up to this billing. The former (Rabiu) was tipped to replace Jay-Jay but so many carrier tussle have been a limitation to that promise he showed at the youth level. Rabiu Ibrahim was so magnificent on the ball that it took then Celtic Coach Neil Lemmon just a minute of trial to be convinced about signing the highly talented player.

He said "it took me just 60 seconds to make up my mind on signing Rabiu, he just an incredible talent and his genius is glaring," but talent alone is not the only requirement, a player deserved adequate mentorship, if Rabiu Ibrahim was mentored I believe the young man praise would have been sung long ago. What took Neil Lennon just a minute to make decision, took Nigeria and its Coaches an awful 6 years as he made his debut against Chad in exemplary fashion.

With adequate moderation Rabiu Ibrahim would have lived up to expectation (replacement for Jay-Jay) and amid a torrid career moving from Sporting Lisbon to PSV Eindhoven and Celtic in pursuit of a career. Let’s hope that dream can be revived by the rebirth of the midfield player in recent months.


The search for a Jay-Jay persisted not because a player of that quality has not been in existence but due to a clear-cut struggle in Nigeria’s midfield. I wonder what a midfield with Ogenyi Onazi, Hope Akpan and the fair skinned Steve Ukoh can offer in transition to the final third.

The aforementioned trio are good holding midfielders and as such the mantle of creativity should not rest on their shoulders. Nigeria inability to scout for great attacking midfielders have been the bane of this search for a decades. Even when players are scattered across Europe especially in lower leagues where our league can afford our exports our scouting department find it a task in combing Europe to fish out the talent who can settle Nigeria midfield crisis.

If we must rest the issue of Okocha replacement there is urgent need for the scouting department to wake up and make voyage in order to find a solution to Nigeria unending midfield crisis not even when players like Chuks Aneke, John Chibuike and co are glaring for all to see their club performance week in week out.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this article are solely of the writer and doesn't represent what SoccerNet Nigeria stands for.


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