Though Austin Jay Jay Okocha is today cherished and adored for his dribbling skills by many of his fans and admirers but not many know that those dribbling abilities almost cost him a chance to don the colours of the Super Eagles under Clemens Westerhof.
This was revealed by one of Okocha’s teammates, Peter Rufai, during the unveiling of Jay Jay Okocha Foundation yesterday in Lagos.
According to Rufai, several times he and some other senior players in the team had to intervene by appealing to Okocha to limit his dribbling in other to appease Westerhof.
Dodo Mayana as Rufai is fondly called by admires recalled a particular day in training when the Dutch coach asked the players to do “one-torch” training.
After several efforts by Okocha to adhere to Westerhof’s instruction, he resorted to dribbling and the former Eagles coach got infuriated and threatened to decamp him.
“At that moment, I went to meet with Okocha and asked him why he dribbled after he had been warned not to and he said: “I just don’t know the spirit that entered into me each time I hold on to the ball. The urge to dribble was always difficult to resist. So at the end of the day we all had to accept the fact that dribble was just part of him,” Rufai recalled.
Speaking, in the same vien, former national team Captain and Coach, Austin Eguavoen said he and the other senior players in the team helped in protecting Okocha when he arrived newly to the Super Eagles.
“Coming fresh to the national team after a good outing in the U-21 competition in Mauritius, we realised the kind of talent he possessed and needed to be protected and we gave him the needed protection,” Eguavoen said.
Okocha, however said if he had died today he would have died not accomplishing a great objective of giving back to the society, which culminated in the launching of the Jay Jay Okocha Foundation.
“I came from a poor background but football changed my life and I think I now have a voice through football to help a lot of children in the streets return to school,” the former Bolton Wanderers’ player said.