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Out-going Super Eagles captain, Austin JJ Okocha, is in Germany, not to play football, but to work as a journalist.
Out-going Super Eagles captain, Austin JJ Okocha, is in Germany, not to play football, but to work as a journalist. Adekunle Salami caught up with the midfield maestro to speak on the Eagles’ absence at the worlds and other issues
Super Eagles captain, Austin Okocha, loves family life. To demonstrate this, he puts his family first in taking decisions about his career, which has seen him making the headlines from Enugu to Frankfurt, Paris to Bolton, not minding the brief spell he had in Turkey with Fenerbahce.
Now in the twilight of his career, especially after Bolton released him at the conclusion of last season, Okocha, who made his World Cup debut with the Eagles in the USA ’94 tournament, needed to make another crucial decision that would benefit his career – and family.
In an encounter here in Germany during the week, the cool-looking midfield maestro noted that he had offers from clubs in Asia and beyond to continue his career, but his love for his wife and children has been the factor holding him back.
“My children are so used to London now and their education is very important to me,” says Okocha, who is in Germany working as a commentator for the Independent Television (of London). “This has been my problem in the past few weeks in taking a decision on where next to go.
“For now I am not sure yet as I am still discussing with a few more agents and contacts. The truth is I don’t know how it’s going to be for now. I want to stay with my wife and children.
“They have missed me so much in the past years and I feel so guilty. I want to be with them more and I am putting them first. I don’t want to move them out of London and so my priority for now is to stay in England. I really pray and hope it works out that way for me.”
On his career in England, the former PSG of France player says reflectively, “It was fantastic.”
“I came to England when people felt it was almost over for me in football but look at what I achieved at Bolton. I am so proud of my stay in England and the records are there to show for it,” he says.
“I have no problem with Bolton and I still communicate with my colleagues there even till now. Football is like that; you meet one day and will part one day.”
“This job is not easy,” he says, switching to his newest love, being a journalist with ITV as a commentator. “It is another experience entirely for me. It involves so much discipline and one has to read and read. This also enables me to appreciate journalism more. It is a noble profession,” he says.
On the absence of the Super Eagles at the World Cup, Okocha, who played just four of the 10 World Cup qualifiers, says the administrators of football in the country should take the blame.
“You have to plan for everything and the fact behind it all is that we refused to plan well and that is not the fault of any player in the team,” Okocha says. “We have to be realistic. How can people be saying I am not committed just this time after serving the team for 12 years? It is unfair.
“I played some of the games and I made it clear that I wouldn’t play all before the start of the qualifiers. I don’t want to go into all of that but my prayer is that we learn from our past mistakes.
“It is sad enough that we are not in Germany, but we have to learn from why we are not here and again that is not the job of any player but that of the administrators.
“We have lots of talented players and the best way is to have proper planning to get the best from them now and in the future.
“I feel so much pain that we are not here because I have been made to answer questions on why and how it happened. Life has to go on and there is nothing we can do for now.”
The former Bolton skipper looked back at his career in the national team and singled out his exploits at USA ’94 as his best time in the team
“You won’t believe it but the fact is I enjoyed that competition more because I was so young then and I had a great time each time I featured in the games,” Okocha recollects.
“When I look back now, I always think of what I should have done differently, but I still cherish the time I had in that edition of the World Cup, which was also the first for the country.
“Nobody gave us a chance as newcomers but we almost qualified for the quarterfinals, but for ill-luck.”
Okocha urges the Super Eagles to always put in their best for the national team to further boost the image of the country on the global scene.
“Football has done so much for Nigeria and the players have to do more to further enhance the good image the country is enjoying through soccer. This is one area where we have the respect all over the world,” he adds.
To Okocha, there are already players in the national set up who can replace him. He mentions Everton defender Joseph Yobo as a worthy successor.
“Yobo played the role so well in the last Nations Cup in Egypt and he should continue,” he says. “Yobo is level-headed and a great player.”
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