Posted by Independent on
It is one of those rare opportunities for him to bare it all. Though he was reluctant at first, when the high-flying Super Eagles captain Austin Jay Jay Okocha decided to talk to your soar-away Sunday Independent, it was all the way.
ē Says Africaís Best Did Not Qualify For World Cup
It is one of those rare opportunities for him to bare it all. Though he was reluctant at first, when the high-flying Super Eagles captain Austin Jay Jay Okocha decided to talk to your soar-away Sunday Independent, it was all the way. He gave an insight into his future ambition, the controversial story over his excuse from the Kigali encounter and his purported move to Qatar, where he was reported to have signed a mouth-watering contract. Okocha spoke to Pius Anakali at the Eaglesí hotel in Port Said, Wednesday night. Excerpts:
How are you doing, Okocha? You did not feature in the opening match against Ghana due to injury. Are you okay now?
Well I am only injured; I am not sick. You can see I am okay and I am happy because we won our first game. That was a big relief for all of us.
Anytime we play Ghana, the opponent seems to go the extra mile. I know you were not on the pitch with them, but still you are part of the team. How did you feel watching from the crowd?
Of course, I am very much part of the team and I know that anytime we are playing Ghana itís always a big game because of the rivalry that existed between us. But this time around, we really outplayed them. And if there was going to be any winner, it was clearly Nigeria. I was delighted the way the game went.
What are the chances of Super Eagles overpowering their next opponents and going all the way to the final?
We donít have to underrate any team. And I think that African football has gone to another level. If you look at the team that are going to the World Cup, that shows you donít have to underrate any team. We are playing every game as if it is the final and that is how it should be. If we are at our best, I donít think they will give us much problem. We have to be at our best. And I am confident we will do well.
We hear different stories about you every day. At a time, we heard you were going to Saudi Arabia; the other moment, it is Qatar. What is the true position?
The true position about my future is that I am still in Bolton Wanderers. I have got some offers from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but I have turned them down because I donít want to leave now. I still want to stay at Bolton, throughout the season and then take up from there.
How do you feel when Nigerians criticise you for not meeting their expectation or when you are criticised for skipping some matches?
I have to accept criticism sometime and I also like to see the positive things about Nigerians criticising me, even though I think it is sometimes not fair on me. I am a human being and I am not a machine. For example, I would have loved to be on the pitch playing for my country now, but I cannot no matter how much I want. I have been working hard and all of a sudden got injured before the first game. But it is also good that people are talking about you. It is good that whenever I say I am not playing they feel very bad; it is because they know what I contribute to the team. Like I said before, I like to see the positive side of it. I do understand their frustration.
I want you to also clear the air over the World Cup Qualifier against Rwanda in Kigali. It was reported that it was because you missed your way to the Eagles hotel in London. What is the correct story?
I think I have been in this business for a while now and the last thing I will do is to lie against anybody. I have said it in the past and I am willing to repeat it. I said before that game that I wasnít fit enough to play that game. And whenever I am not fit enough or not ready to come, I always make it clear that I wonít come. When I canít come, I would always give my reasons. So I didnít lie to anybody.
I was shocked to hear people saying that I said it was because I couldnít find my way to the hotel. That wasnít the reason because even if I got to the hotel, I would still not be in Kigali. I told Chukwu weeks before the match that I wasnít coming for the match.
In other words, that you couldnít not find your way to the hotel was just a rumour?
It was true that I couldnít find the hotel, but it was not true that I would have traveled with them; I was only going there to wish them well.
In the 2002 Nations Cup in Tunisia, you led the Super Eagles in most of the individual awards. Though we did not win the cup, Nigerians were happy that we had other things to celebrate. Now you are down with injury. Are you afraid you will retire on the low?
Well, I didnít come to this tournament to prove anything. I came to give my support. I have won the tournament before and I have played in the final before. I have won bronze. Normally, I have got nothing to play for. It is just a way for me to give something back to the people that have been behind me over these years. If I quit football today, I have had a great career. Iíve got nothing to regret; so I am not retiring on the low.
When are you quitting?
I am leaving immediately after the Nations Cup.
Which team do you think will give the Super Eagles any problem?
Every game is difficult, the way I see it; we should take it game by game. We donít have to point to one of two particular countries as the ones that may give us problem. Every match should be seen as the first until the tournament is won. It is a difficult tournament and you can see it against Ghana. That match wasnít easy even though we won. It was a very tight game.
Stephen Keshi-coached Togo will be going to the World Cup in August, yet the team did not make it to the second round of the Nations Cup. How do you react to this?
I am a Nigerian and I am supporting the coach of Togo, Stephen Keshi, and not the team.
I want him to do well; but that they did not make it to the next round shows how difficult it is to qualify from Africa. I mean the teams that qualify for the World Cup are not the best teams in Africa; but maybe at that time they did their homework well, that was why they qualified.
Will you come back to Nigeria one day and build a football academy or become a coach in Nigeria?
I am involved in building an academy and like I said before, I donít want to be a coach. But I will always want to do something for kiddies.
And what do you think of women in football?
I think women should go and find something better to do.
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