By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Twenty-seven years after Austin Jay Jay Okocha’s wonder goal against legendary goalkeeper, Oliver Khan, in a Bundesliga match in 1993, Liverpool’s Manager, Jurgen Klopp has insisted that that goal remains spectacular in Germany’s club football history.
The then wide-eyed Okocha came into that game for Eintracht Frankfurt from the bench in the second half to change the game with his free flowing dribbles. He dribbled all Karlsruher defenders and Kahn before slotting the ball into the net to set the entire stadium aglow as Frankfurt won 3-1.
That goal was voted the Goal of the Season 1992/93 by most football magazines and some television stations
Reminiscing on it in 2016, Kahn joked in a tweet that he still ‘feels dizzy’ from the effects of Okocha’s dribbles.
In a book titledMade in Africa: The History of African Players in English Football,by Ed Aarons, due to be published today by Arena Sport, UK’s The Guardian in a review quoted Klopp as describing that goal as spectacular.
Hear Klopp: “He scored the most spectacular goal in the history of German football. It took like five minutes of Kahn and his defenders diving on the floor before he put the ball in the net!” stressed the Liverpool’s German gaffer while remembering that mesmerizing play from Okocha.
Klopp also eulogized other great Africans like Ghana’s Anthony Yeboah who was Okocha’s teammate at Frankfurt.
He admitted that some of the world’s best players have been Africans, a decision. he said informed why they formed the core of his team at Anfield.
“Some of the world’s best players have been from Africa. George Weah. Didier Drogba. Yaya Touré. In their generation they were some of the best players so why should we (Liverpool) not sign them?
Like several managers who love players from the continent due to their abundant talents, Klopp said the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) whose schedule was previously January/ February was always a nightmare for any European coaches having several African players in their starting line up at that crucial time of the season.
“In the past because the Africa Cup of Nations was in the winter it was really a reason not to sign an African player because you would lose him for four weeks in the middle of the season. That was really something we had in our minds always,” revealed Klopp.
Few weeks after emerging winners of the UEFA Champions League in 2019 and had unbeaten runs for weeks, Klopp tasted his first defeat after his African Stars led by Mohamed Salah (Egypt) and Sadio Mane (Senegal) left him for AFCON in Egypt.
It was the first time the African football showpiece was moved from winter to summer. Now, the next edition scheduled to hold in Cameroon in 2021 in January may bring back the usual Club versus Country tussle for the services of key players. The Covid-19 pandemic will be a major factor in deciding wether the competition will even hold as scheduled by CAF.
Klopp who spent most of his own playing career at Mainz in the German second division before becoming one of the world’s best managers can claim to have played a special role in the story of African players in English football.
“We are quite … as a family. I’m … my wife worked and lived in Africa,” he explained in the book review by UK’s The Guardian.
His wife,Ulla, who was a teacher in a German school In Kenya played a big part in shaping his views of Africans.
“She was a teacher In a German school. Our elder son lived there for a couple of years so they are really interested in Africa. She was a teacher. She helped me to understand some of the culture,” observed the coach who is waiting to be crowned with his wards as champions of the English Premier League for the first time in 30 years.