|Full name||Augustine Azuka Okocha|
|Date of birth||14 August 1973|
|Place of birth||Enugu, Nigeria|
|Height||1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
Augustine Azuka "Jay-Jay" Okocha (born 14 August 1973) is a Nigerian former footballer who played as a midfielder. He is widely regarded as the Best Nigerian Player of his Generation. He is also known for his stepovers, skill, technique, and being 'so good that they named him twice' (a line immortalised in a terrace chant while Okocha played for Bolton Wanderers). He is a dual Nigerian-Turkish citizen, having acquired Turkish citizenship as "Muhammet Yavuz" while playing for Süper Lig team Fenerbahçe.
Okocha was born in Enugu, Enugu State. His parents were from Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State, Nigeria. 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 he travelled to Germany to meet a friend, where he was asked to train with his team after impressing in training, and landed a deal with German Third Division side Borussia Neunkirchen.
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Okocha joined Eintracht Frankfurt in 1992, 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 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 program). In 1995, Okocha, Yeboah and Maurizio Gaudino were all involved in a feud with manager Jupp Heynckes, which led to their departure from the club.
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Okocha joined Turkish club Fenerbahçe following Eintracht Frankfurt's relegation to Bundesliga 2. In his two seasons with the team he amassed thirty goals in sixty appearances, many of them coming from direct free kicks which had become something of a trademark for him at the club. While at Fenerbahçe, he also became a Turkish citizen as "Muhammet Yavuz." Okocha is one a prestigious few to wear the number 10 shirt, a symbol of crucial ability required to help carry Fenerbahce to trophies.
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In 1998, French side PSG splashed around $24 million on 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.
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Okocha joined Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer after leaving PSG in the summer of 2002 after the FIFA World Cup. His debut season, despite being hampered by injury, made him a favourite with the Bolton fans, with the team printing shirts with the inscription "Jay-Jay – so good they named him twice". He steered the team away from relegation with seven goals, including the team Goal of the Season in the vital league win against West Ham United. This was voted Bolton's best Premier League goal in a fans vote in 2008. The next season saw Okocha receive more responsibility as he was given the captain's armband following Guðni Bergsson's retirement. As captain he led Bolton to their first cup final in nine years where they finished runners-up in the 2004 Football League Cup.
In 2006, he was stripped of the captaincy – something he said he had seen coming, as there had been a change in attitude from some staff members. This had probably been due to his proposed move to the Middle East, which had been growing in speculation. At the end of the season, he refused a one-year extension in order to move to Qatar.
Following Bolton's relegation from the Premier League in 2012, Okocha stated that his time at the club was a waste of time, saying the club had not improved since his time there.
After just one season in Qatar, Football League Championship side Hull City signed Okocha on a free transfer in 2007, after the player had been linked to Real Salt Lake and Sydney FC. It was a move he made saying that "God had told him to do so". He however was not able to contribute greatly to Hull's promotion campaign due to fitness and constant injury problems, playing only 18 games and scoring no goals. Hull still succeeded in grabbing promotion to the Premier League, for the first time in their 104-year history. At the end of the season, after changing his mind on a proposed retirement due to Hull's promotion, he was released by the club, which sent him into retirement.
Okocha made his official debut for Nigeria in their 2–1 1994 FIFA World Cup Qualifier away loss against Ivory Coast in May 1993.It was not until his second cap and home debut that he became a favourite with the Nigerian supporters. With Nigeria trailing 1–0 against Algeria, in a match they needed to win, he scored from a direct free kick to equalise, before helping the team to a 4–1 win, eventually securing qualification to their first World Cup. In 1994, he was a member of both the victorious 1994 African Cup of Nations squad and the World Cup squad who made it to the second round before they lost in a dramatic match against eventual runners-up Italy.
In 1996, Okocha became a member of an arguably more successful Nigerian side, their Olympic gold winning side at the Atlanta Games, later nicknamed 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.
Okocha again joined 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 a left-foot blast from outside the penalty area into the top corner in the final against Cameroon, which equalized the score 2–2 and ultimately would send the match into extra time. There was no change in the score during the supplement, so the winner was decided on penalties; Okocha converted his shot but Nigeria lost the shootout to earn the silver medal.
After a disappointing Nations Cup in 2002 where Nigeria ended up finishing third, Okocha was named Nigeria captain after Sunday Oliseh and Finidi George were axed from the side. His first tournament as captain came that summer in the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Korea and Japan. Playing in Group E, the ‘group of the death’ alongside Argentina, Sweden and England, Nigeria failed to make it to the next round gaining only one point in their final game, a goalless draw against England.
Okocha later led the Nigerian team to a third place finish at the 2004 African Nations Cup in Tunisia, with some breathtaking displays, scoring four goals which include a spectacular free kick against Cameroon in the quarter finals and most notably the 1000th goal in Nations Cup history against South Africa, and winning the Player of the tournament and joint Golden boot winner.
After failing to help Nigeria qualify for the 2006 World Cup, Okocha announced that he would retire from international scene after the Cup of Nations in Egypt. Injury prevented Okocha from featuring in any of Nigeria's opening fixtures and he did not regain fitness until the semi final loss against Ivory Coast. He then played in his final international appearance in a 2–1 victory in a third place playoff against Senegal, he was then given a standing ovation by the nearly 60,000 attendance when he left the field.
He made a return to the Super Eagles in his testimonial against an African select side in Warri. The game featured former players Daniel Amokachi, Alloysius Agu and John Fashanu, as well as current players Benjani and Sulley Muntari. Nigeria won the game 2–1 with Okocha scoring the winning goal after appearing for the side in the second half.
In March 2004, he was named among the top 125 living footballers by Pelé.
Okocha never won the African Player of Year award, becoming arguably the best player never to win the award despite coming second twice in 1998. He did however win the inaugural BBC African Footballer of the Year and the successive one, becoming the only player to retain the award and win it more than once. In 2004 he was listed in football legend Pelé's FIFA 100 (a list of the greatest 125 living players of all time). In 2007 he was voted number 12 on the greatest African footballers of the past 50 years list, on a poll conducted by CAF to coincide with their 50th anniversary.
|Nigeria national team|
|Awards and achievements|
|Bolton Wanderers F.C. captain