If you've ever met a person from Nigeria, chances are the conversation very quickly turned into an appreciation of the career of Jay-Jay Okocha. Why is that?
Well, Nigerians love him, football fans love him, and he is one of very few Nigerian cultural references to become widely known on these shores. Or, in simpler terms, Jay-Jay Okocha is an absolute legend.
On June 18th 2002, while representing Nigeria at the World Cup in Japan/Korea, he signed a contract with Bolton Wanderers under manager Sam Allardyce. The rest, as they say, is history.
Here are 13 reasons why Jay-Jay Okocha is so universally loved.
The "so good they named him twice" legend.
"So good they named him twice" is the first thing you hear when you say the name Jay-Jay Okocha aloud. The legend of the man who was so good they named him twice traveled from the Enugu State in Africa all the way to the terraces of Bolton and beyond.
His actual name is also fantastic.
Augustine Azuka "Jay-Jay" Okocha.
It's very fun to say.
He absolutely embodied the Sam Allardyce Bolton "galacticos" era.
Bolton Wanderers were a joy to watch as relative Premier League newcomers under Sam Allardyce, as some of the better known names in European football signed up to play at the Reebok. The likes of Ivan Campo, Youri Djorkaeff, Hidetoshi Nakata, and Bruno N'Gotty all came in under big Sam, but none of them were as effective as Jay-Jay.
He represents the golden age of Nigerian football.
Nigeria were everybody's second team at the 1998 World Cup, and Jay-Jay was the face of the team. They played with a style and speed that was typical of their number ten. A joy to watch.
We listed some of our other heroes from the golden age of Nigerian football here.
He scored some absolute screamers.
When he hit them, they stayed hit.
He scored some mind-boggling goals as well.
He wasn't all power, he had pure finesse when needed.
He had a ridiculous arsenal of skills
Ray Parlour in particular learned the hard way that you don't get tight on Jay-Jay.
The YouTube highlights he left behind.
As good a YouTube video of any footballer, past or present.
He mentored Ronaldinho in his PSG days.
He taught the young Brazilian everything he knows. Or, at least how to enjoy himself on the pitch.
His trademark smile.
He was a free transfer for Bolton.
They paid nothing to sign him, and he has gone down as one of the best, if not the best, free transfer in Premier League history.
He had to work his way up the hard way.
After starting out at his local team Enugu Rangers, Jay-Jay went to lowly Borussia Neunkirchen in Germany to start his career. Then, he had to prove himself with Eintracht Frankfurt before he was snapped up by Fenerbache where he bagged almost a goal every other game from midfield. PSG shelled out around $24m for his signature in 1998, making Okocha the most expensive African player at the time.
He played the beautiful game in the right way.
Jay-Jay Okocha represents everything that is good about football. He played to excite people, he played the game because he loved it, and he earned millions of fans all over the World because of it.