By Tony Ubani
NOT even the chances of the Super Eagles qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa has generated such intense debate. Should Austine Jay Jay Okocha come back to the Super Eagles after he retired to help them out in their qualification battle?
The vibrant Nigerian media are replete with opinions for and against the biggest come-back in Nigerian football. Coaches, ex-internationals, players, fans, administrators have voiced their opinions on the issue. But the annoying silence of Okocha on the burning matter has made many say that he was interested on a come-back. Others say that silence is golden.
Nigerians and indeed journalists had the ample opportunity of seeing Okocha re-produce the sparkling performance that distinguished him from the rest of African players during the African Legendâ€™s match that pitched the Nigerian USAâ€™94 team against the rest of Africa in an MTN organised match.
Though Okocha behaved like a deaf and dumb on his come-back bid, he instead preferred to answer the questions with skill, stamina, brilliance and charming the stadium to erupt in a shout of â€œWe want Jay Jay, We want Jay Jayâ€. Okocha twisted and turned, dribbled with his deft touches and precise passess. He nearly got a goal in one of his magical turnings and fired home only to be denied by the post as the fans continued chanting and singing his praise. Okocha played with so much vim and vitality joining the defence and spraying his tailored-made passes.
Arguments erupted in the stands on whether the sparkle was a flash in the pan. Depending on where you stand, it even resulted in finger-pointing and pushing to drive home their points. The body language of Okocha may have answered a lot of skeptics on whether he is coming back. But, he refused to say anything concerning his come-back after the match thereby fueling speculations that heâ€™s fit asÂ fiddle to come back. Most of the players spoken to also said that itâ€™s only Okocha to answer the question.
But it appears that the former skipper of the Eagles has learnt the pranks of Politicians in a waiting game. Nigerians are anxiously waiting to know the decision of Okocha who is arguably the best player to have come out from Nigeria.
Other players who brought back memories in the legendary match at the Teslim Balogun stadium include Uche Okechukwu, Uche Okafor, Aloy Agu, Ike Shorunmu, Peter Rufai, Isaac Semitoje, Friday Elaho, Taribo West, Thompson Oliha, Victor Ikpeba, Ben Iroha, Emmanuel Amuneke, Tijani Babangida, Garba Lawal, Mutiu Adepoju, Augustine Eguavoen, Emeka Ezeugo, Dan Amokachi, Jonathan Akpoborie. The team that beat the rest of Africa 2-1 through goals from Garba Lawal and Jonathan Akpoborie was coached by Christian Chukwu.
Then on the side of the African X1 included former European, African and World Football idol, George Opong Weah, Cote dâ€™Ivoireâ€™s trio of Abdoulaye Traore, Youssouf Fofana and goalkeeper Alain Gouamene, Ghanaâ€™s Nii Odartey Lamptey, and Ossei Kuffour. South Africaâ€™s Phil Massinga, Shaun Bartlet, Camerounâ€™s Stephen Tataw and Louis Mfede Paul, Guineaâ€™s Titi Camara and Zambiaâ€™s Kalusha Bwalya.
The lone goal from the team coached by Chief Adegboye Onigbinde was by Titi Camara. Most of the players have added so much weight that recognition was difficult while reproducing their old sparkle was gone with the winds of time. Weah and Okocha were refreshingly different while Victor Ikpeba and Akpoborie played well.