Nigerian football legend, Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, has expressed his ambition to run football in the country possibly in the capacity of the President of the Nigeria Football Federation.
The former Super Eagles captain bared his mind in France while fielding questions from FIFA.com after taking part in the 12th Match Against Poverty last week.
When asked if he was thinking of going into coaching someday, Okocha said, “No, not for the moment. I’m more interested in the executive positions. I prefer to be the one who appoints them and tells them what to do.”
Then, FIFA.com asked, “You see yourself as the presidential type, then?” Okocha replied, “Why not? Yes. In fact, I’ve just been named the Chairman of the Delta State Football Association, which I’m delighted about. Who knows what the future has in store, though?”
The former Paris Saint-Germain playmaker, who played the charity match on the invitation of UNDP goodwill ambassadors, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo, lamented the state of the game in Nigeria, saying the country lacks consistency.
“We’ve been through some tough times, but the good thing is that we’re a big country with a lot of talented players. We just need to get the right structures in place so that the light can shine for good,” he said.
The midfield maestro, who also played for Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahce, Bolton Wanderers and Hull City, said the Nigerian team that won the last U17 World Cup have the potential to be the next golden generation.
He said, “We have to make sure that these youngsters can kick on. If we’re going to do that, we must give them support and encouragement. If we don’t give them the right backing, then it’s just going to be the same old story. We have youth teams that have shone in the past but which haven’t been able to push on at senior level.
“Let’s try and protect this emerging generation of players and help them mature. I think it’s important that we set up structures that allow us to achieve the kind of continuity we’ve always needed.”
He described football as a religion in Nigeria. He said football unites the country. “If the football goes well, then everything goes well. It’s more than a game, more than a sport. It’s part of our culture,” he said.
On whether he can see the emergence of a new Okocha in the new generation, the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations winner and 1996 Olympic gold medallist said, “One thing’s for sure: there’s an awful lot of talent among those youngsters. No two players are the same, though. Every player has their own attributes, characteristics and flaws, and their own story too.”