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Soccer News of Tuesday, 21 June 2022


Inside story of how Okocha, Taribo almost got into a fight on national team duty

The 1998 squad of the Super Eagles of Nigeria The 1998 squad of the Super Eagles of Nigeria

Former Super Eagles captain Sunday Oliseh has detailed how Taribo West and Austin Jay-Jay Okocha almost got into a fight while playing for Nigeria.

Speaking in a recent interview on the ATHLST Podcast, Oliseh said that despite the success they had together some squad members found it difficult to play with Okocha and Taribo was one of those.

Oliseh, Okocha and Taribo were international teammates for over seven years who enjoyed success with the Super Eagles.

The three were part of the Nigerian team that won Africa's first gold medal in the football event of the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.

Oliseh and Okocha were also part of Nigeria's golden generation that won the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations and reached the second round of the 1994 World Cup on their debut.

Okocha, who many believed was the most talented player in the squad was also a fan favorite. His mastery, skills and trickery on the ball endeared him to fans both in club and country.

Despite his talent and impact on the field, Oliseh said that some Super Eagles teammates, especially defensive players, found Okocha's skills sometimes too excessive, which almost got him into trouble with Taribo.

"With Jayjay, most people would say he was a difficult player to play with, as teammates, as defensive players," Oliseh said on the ATHLST Podcast.

"But I personally had a way, an understanding with Jayjay that made it easy for me to play with him.

Oliseh added that Okocha's penchant to always dribble almost put him into trouble with Taribo, but he had to calm the ex-Inter Milan defender down.

"There was one particular game, I'll share a story with you. We were playing, and Jay-Jay was doing his normal thing, and Nigerian fans were going crazy.

"In our team, as much as we disagreed, every player was a king in their position. We had match winners – most of the players could win games, but if someone did something bad in the group, the defenders always tell me, 'Sunday tell am o'.

"They knew I was the only one who could say to Jay-Jay that 'my man, release the ball and Jayjay would release.

There was one particular game, he was doing it, and we lost the ball. And the ball was coming, and Taribo was going crazy about him. And he lost the ball one more time, and I told him, 'hey, my man, I'm tired of running.

"And the next time, he went on dribbling and lost the ball. I left the man. I let the opponent pass, and they almost scored. Taribo went crazy, he crossed ahead of me, and I had to grab him. Don't joke with Taribo. He wants to win.

He's fanatical about winning," Oliseh concluded.

But despite the issue, the trio played together until 2002, when Oliseh retired from the team in controversial circumstances.

Okocha, meanwhile, retired from international football in 2006.