The “Dazzling Nigerian” starred for Bolton Wanderers in the early 2000s, peppering oppositions and becoming respected as one of the finest Super Eagles stars to play in the English Premier League.
Austin Jay-Jay Okocha is arguably one of the greatest footballers in the club’s long history and he helped them reach the Carling Cup final in 2004.
Okocha was globally renowned for his exquisite touch, technique, vision, creativity, elegance and intelligence, but he also scored beautiful goals on a regular basis. He was a true box-office player that got fans off their seats.
In the mid-1990s, Africa had a generation of incredible talent introduce itself to the world. One of these players, Augustine Okocha, became so electric that he became known by a single nickname: Jay-Jay. Born in Enugu, Nigeria, Jay-Jay received his nickname from his older brother, James. He cultivated his talents on the streets of Iwo, playing soccer with a makeshift ball and growing his juggling and dribbling skills.
“As far as I can remember, we used to play with anything, with any round thing we could find,” Okocha one stated in an interview with BBC News. “[Whenever] we managed to get hold of a ball, that was a bonus! I mean it was amazing!”
The playmaker got his soccer start with Enugu Rangers, where he was known for producing the spectacular. Still, it was a holiday trip to West Germany after the 1990 World Cup that he got his break. Visiting a friend who played for Borussia Neunkirchen, he asked to join in a training session one morning. He made such an impression that a day later, he had a contract.
He quickly moved up the ranks from the third division of German football to signing with Eintracht Frankfurt in 1992. Deployed as an attacking midfielder, he quickly brought his spectacular talents to the Bundesliga. He got the 1993 Goal of the Year for a goal he scored against legendary Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and Karlsruher SC.
He remained with Frankfurt until 1996, when he left Germany for Fenerbahçe. There, he became known for his free kicks. He had 30 goals in 62 appearances, with his free kicks serving as his calling card. He was able to obtain Turkish citizenship while he was at the club.
His spectacular talents didn’t go unnoticed, and Paris Saint-Germain made him the most expensive African footballer in 1998 when they signed him for £14 million. He was beloved in his time at PSG. After 4 seasons there, he moved to Bolton Wanderers. There, he quickly became a fan favorite, and they came up with shirts that said “Jay-Jay – so good they named him twice.” That moniker always stuck with Jay-Jay, especially as he kept Bolton in the top flight with 7 goals. He eventually became Bolton’s captain and led them to the League Cup final in 2004.
Jay-Jay had a short stint in Qatar before returning to England to play one season for Hull City. Hull won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history. It was then he retired from the game.