African football legend Austin Jay-jay Okocha has taken the lid off on his inability to win the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Player of the year award and Ballon d’Or during the peak of his football career.
The former Paris Saint Germain attacking midfielder explained he was unlucky to play at a time when strikers were more likely to claim the CAF and FIFA Best Player awards according to Afrique Sports.
Okocha shot into international prominence at the age of 20 when his audaciously brilliant goal against Oliver Kahn was named the Goal of the Year in Germany.
And within ten years, the former Bolton Wanderers skipper won the Nigeria Footballer of the Year Award a record seven times.
Although he mesmerized opponents with the ball and created myriads of goal scoring opportunities in every team he played in, the African legend never won the CAF Best Player Award or get on the final shortlist for the Ballon d’Or.
His one close shot at the CAF Best Player Award was in 1998 when he finished as runner-up to Morocco’s Mustapha Hadji.
Closer observation shows, though, that between 1995 and 2005 when the former Fenerbahce icon was at the peak of his powers, all the winners of the African Footballer of the Year winners were strikers. The likes of Nwankwo Kanu, Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o even claimed the honours more than once.
Okocha, who banged in 34 goals in just 62 league games for Fener, believes that had he pushed to play as a striker, he would have turned out pretty good. Good enough to even win the FIFA Ballon d’Or a couple of times.
“In my time, it is true that the number 10 position was prestigious, but if you wanted to become the best in the world you had to play in 9,” the former Super Eagles skipper was quoted by Afrique Sports.
“I am certain that if I had played higher, I would have won at least two gold balls, not African, but the gold ball which recognizes the best player in the world.
“It is not pride, but just an observation. I think I had the ability to play 9, however, I preferred the position of No. 10 because it allowed me to unleash all my creative genius.
Okocha, though, won the BBC African Footballer of the Year award twice and was also named the Best Player of the Tournament at the 2004 African Cup of Nations.