Austin Jay Jay Okocha, the former Nigerian football star, has recently expressed his regret at never winning the African Footballer of the Year award during his playing days, while speaking on Arise TV.

Okocha said, “I would have loved to win the African Footballer of the Year during my days. Maybe I was in the wrong club at that time. It is one award I would have loved to win; it was not easy for an African player to play for top clubs because they don’t pay high wages.”

Okocha went on to explain, “When they offer you a contract, the money is small because they see it as doing you a favour. That is why I went for clubs that are ready to pay me higher; I go for the higher bidder. I had to turn down some offers from big clubs because of wage issues.”

Okocha’s comments highlight the persistent challenges that African footballers face in their pursuit of success and recognition in European football. Despite the continent’s rich talent pool and its significant contributions to the global game, African players often struggle to compete on equal footing with their European and South American counterparts, due to a variety of factors, including cultural barriers, financial constraints, and institutional biases.

One of the primary obstacles facing African players is the issue of wages. As Okocha noted, European clubs have historically been reluctant to offer African players the same salaries and benefits as their European counterparts, often citing their lack of experience or perceived inferiority as reasons for the discrepancy. This has made it difficult for African players to secure contracts with top clubs and to compete for individual awards and accolades, such as the African Footballer of the Year award.

Despite these challenges, however, African footballers have continued to excel in the global game, thanks to their skill, resilience, and determination. In recent years, the tide has begun to turn, with more and more African players securing contracts with top clubs and earning recognition for their talents and achievements. As Okocha stated, “But things have changed now, as Africans and Nigerians get bigger football contracts overseas.”

This is a positive development for African football and a testament to the enduring strength and potential of the continent’s footballing talent.

As for Okocha, while he may regret not winning the African Footballer of the Year award during his playing days, his legacy as one of Africa’s greatest ever footballers is secure. With his dazzling skills, unflappable temperament, and fierce competitive spirit, he inspired a generation of young African players and helped to raise the profile of African football on the global stage. His legacy is a reminder of the power of football to unite, inspire, and transform lives, and of the enduring potential of African football to achieve greatness.