24 years after, Okocha’s football ‘magic’ still reverberates in Nairobi

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Even in retirement, former Super Eagles captain, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, is still worshipped by soccer fans in Kenya.

In 1997, Okocha and the star-studded Super Eagles squad landed in Nairobi for their 1998 World Cup qualifier against the Harambee Stars. Then, the Eagles were the reigning Olympic champions, and still basking from their glorious USA ‘94 World Cup run.

The match attended by the then Kenyan President, Daniel Arap Moi, ended 1-1 draw at the Kasarani Stadium. Till date, a majority of Kenyan fans have not forgotten the dribbling skills displayed by Jay Jay Okocha.

At the just concluded World U-20 Athletics Championship, Nairobi 2021, a majority of Kenyans tag every Nigerian ‘Jay Jay Okocha.’Thomas Makena was one of the volunteers, who attended to visitors at the Kasarani Stadium.

Speaking with The Guardian on Day Four of the competition, Makena, an ex-police officer, narrated how Okocha’s magic denied the Harambee Stars victory in the qualification to France ’98 FIFA World Cup.

“I watched the match between the Harambee Stars and the Super Eagles in 1997. Your country (referring to the Super Eagles) had big names likes Mutiu Adepoju, Wilson Oruma, Taribo West, Sunday Oliseh, Daniel Amokachi, Victor Ikpeba, Jonathan Akpoborie and Emmanuel Amunike. But it was Okocha’s magic that actually thrilled us. He was everywhere, dribbling and displaying his football skills,” he stated.

Makena continues: “The Kasarani Stadium has 60,000 capacity, but over 80,000 people were there to watch the Kenya versus Nigeria match. At the end, some of our people were sad that we couldn’t beat the Super Eagles, but I was satisfied watching Jay Jay Okocha live. I am looking forward to the day I will meet him again.” Jonathan Akpoborie accounted for the Super Eagles’ goal in that game.

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