Cult Heroes: Jay-Jay

Cult Heroes: Jay-Jay

You know the clip. You've seen it loads of times. But you'll still stop to watch it whenever it pops up on your Twitter timeline.

It's Jay-Jay Okocha tormenting the world's angriest goalie Oliver Kahn for what seems like an eternity before finally, mercifully pulling the trigger and smashing the ball past the flailing German and into the net.

Yes, that clip.



It was the goal that brought Okocha to the world's attention, scored in August 1993 for Eintracht Frankfurt. It was insane and unconventional and, let's be honest, an exercise in the art of piss taking - all adjectives that could be used to describe the Nigerian's entire career.

The story of how he came to be a pro is equally crazy. Okocha was on holiday visiting a friend in Germany and had gone to watch said pal train for third division minnows Borussia Neunkirchen when he asked to join in. He was, of course, better than everyone and duly earned his first professional contract.

Within 18 months, he'd moved to the Bundesliga with Frankfurt - where, a year later, he cemented his place in football folklore with his public humiliation of Olly Kahn.



Spells with Fenerbahçe (30 goals - mainly thunderbastards - in only 62 games) and PSG (where he mentored a certain Ronaldo de Assis Moreira) followed thereafter - but Jay-Jay is perhaps best known for his spell at Bolton Wanderers.



Everything about his arrival in Lancashire was weird. Only 28 and at the peak of his powers, Okocha had plenty of suitors but he somehow ended up at the Reebok. Jay-Jay and manager Sam Allardyce seemed like polar opposites - the football equivalent of a particularly bleak episode of wife swap.

But it worked.

He scored great goals and did ridiculous tricks that defied physics and logic. Even more importantly, he had fun - and so did the rest of us.

We may have seen better African footballers in the Premier League (although not many) but few brought us as much raw pleasure as Jay-Jay. 

From first minute to last, his 124-game stay in England was a timely reminder that football is, despite everything, really, really great.



So there you have it - Augustine Azuka "Jay-Jay" Okocha: entertainer, artist, piss taker - and a proper cult hero if ever there was one. 


Words by Josh Warwick





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