NAIROBI, Kenya, March 24 – Most of those who watched him dazzle with the ball described him as a footballer ‘so good they named him twice’.
Nigerian football legend Jay Jay Okocha is delighted that the good work he put in during his time in the English Premier League is being continued by Kenyan star Victor Wanyama, saying the Tottenham midfielder is doing a great job for Africa.
However, Okocha who is in the country for a 4-day tour courtesy of the Barclays Kenya Open, has challenged Football Kenya Federation to put up better youth structures that will enable the country produce more Wanyamas.
“Wanyama is doing a great job for we Africans because what people don’t realize is that when you are out there playing in Europe they don’t refer to you as a player from Kenya but refer to you as an African before you are reminded where you are coming from,” Okocha, uncle to Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi said.
“They will say…. that African player Victor Wanyama is playing for Tottenham… So I’m delighted he is flying our flag very high there and automatically that will open more doors for more Kenyan players,” he added.
Okocha revealed that lack of proper structures in Africa has dragged the continent behind, contributing to poor performance by the national teams.
“It’s up to the federation (FKF) to put structures in place that will enable more players to capitalize on that opportunity of playing abroad. We struggle sometimes to bring down scouts to watch our leagues because they are not as strong and that is our weakness as a continent,” the 43-year-old former Super Eagles attacking midfielder said.
“The only opportunity they (scouts) have is watching our national teams but unfortunately because Kenya is not taking part in the World Cup and that limits their opportunity of getting more players out there.”
“For Kenya to build a strong national football team or bridge that gap I think they should have more players playing in Europe because the standards there are high than what we have here in Africa,” he advised.
Wanyama is having an excellent season at Tottenham Hotspur where he has played a crucial midfield role for the North London club who are placed second on the English Premier League standings with 10 matches to go.
Okocha, a gold medalist with the Super Eagles in the 1996 Olympics, however believes there is no rivalry between Nigeria and Kenya’s Harambee Stars but jokingly said just the same way athletics is big in Kenya, football is a religion for the West African country.
“I don’t think there is a rivalry between Kenya and Nigeria but I think Kenya should also know what they are good at. I don’t think we get upset and disappointed when we don’t win a marathon or 10,0000m. We can only try to compete so in football we are one step ahead of Kenya.”
“If Kenya beat Nigeria in footballer we will be surprised because they are always the underdogs but if we beat Kenya its normal but honestly speaking the gap has been bridged,” Okocha narrated.
“But it’s up to Kenya to impact that belief to play without fear. What happens is that some countries are still respecting others based on their past glory and if you take away that fear factor, you will be able to challenge.”
Despite the experience in football, Okocha has no intentions of going into coaching.
Okocha was known for his confidence, technique, creativity, and dribbling skills, as well as his use of feints, in particular the step-over.
Among the top sides the 2003, 2004 BBC African Player of the Year featured for, are English Premier League side Hull City, former EPL side Bolton Wanderers as well as French giants Paris Saint-Germain.