Former Super Eagles midfielder, Austin Okocha, credited his football achievements to the fortunate timing of his departure from Nigeria.
In an interview with Arise TV on Saturday, the 49-year-old discussed how leaving Nigeria at a young age played a crucial role in his successful career.
Known for his exceptional flair and dribbling skills, Okocha is widely regarded as Nigeria’s most skillful footballer. He was a key member of the Nigerian U-23 team that secured the gold medal in the football event at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Additionally, he was part of the Eagles side that clinched victory in the 1994 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) held in Tunisia.
Okocha’s football journey began with Enugu Rangers before he embarked on a trip to Europe at the age of 17. It was during an impromptu training session that he caught the attention of Borussia Neunkirchen, a team in Germany’s third division. Reflecting on his career, Okocha emphasized that Nigeria lacks the necessary infrastructure and facilities to nurture the full potential of young players. He highlighted the importance of the structured environment he found in Europe, which facilitated his growth as a footballer.
According to Okocha, “The difference is that in Europe you have everything you need to improve as a player and you’re playing under better coaches and a better environment. In Nigeria, we lack facilities, and that disturbs one’s opportunity to perform and bring out the best in a young player. I was lucky that I left Nigeria early. I did not go in the typical way where players would be scouted and moved abroad. Rather, I went abroad on my own, and I was able to make it despite the difficulty.”
Throughout his career, Okocha represented various clubs, including Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahçe, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), and Bolton Wanderers, among others. His remarkable talent and skill on the field have solidified his legacy as one of Nigeria’s greatest footballers.