Afcon Failure: Okocha questions Nigerian players’ passion
The former Super Eagles star has told Goal that the current national crop need to convince the public that they care about playing for their national team
Jay-Jay Okocha says that questions will be asked about the passion of Nigeria’s players following their exit from the Africa Cup of Nations.
The reigning champions failed to qualify for the 2015 finals after drawing 2-2 with South Africa in Uyo on Wednesday, marking a second exit before the tournament proper in three editions.
And while Stephen Keshi’s future has already been called into question, Okocha believes the players have to take some of the responsibility too.
“I think, to be honest, we will always produce talented players. But perhaps the question is whether they have the same passion that they used to have,” Okocha told Goal. “People are pressuring them about that, you know, because sometimes it seems as if they don’t really care much about the result.”
Wednesday’s result combined with Congo’s 1-0 win in Sudan to extinguish Nigeria’s final hopes, but the 41-year-old said they had made it very difficult for themselves earlier in the campaign.
“Of course, it was down to our bad spot, even if we were still in with a chance,” he added. “I think sometimes players must have a wake-up call before they realise they are back in African football. They left themselves get into a difficult position.”
Ironically, Okocha – who won 75 caps for his country – believes the Super Eagles could have gone on to perform very well again in the finals in Equatorial Guinea had the qualified among the final 16 teams.
“I have no doubt that had we managed to qualify we would have had a good tournament, because you have to play really well once it comes to the tournament itself. The qualifiers are sometimes a bit tricky here in Africa, so I think if they had qualified they would have had a good tournament.”
Okocha is currently acting as an ambassador for Western Union’s ‘Pass for School’ programme which will see funding made towards better education every time somebody posts an old photograph of themselves in a childhood sports photo to Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #PassForSchool.
He explained: “It is a great initiative, especially since it helps the less privileged children because we all know how vital education is. So I’m delighted to be a part of it.” ‑ Goal.com