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Dec 19, 2003

Your verdict: Okocha Bolton quandary

Anything to do with Jay-Jay Okocha always sparks a glut of emails from our passionate Nigerian readers, so when Bolton manager Sam Allardyce pleaded with the Super Eagles skipper to miss the African Nations Cup a deluge of opinion inevitably followed.

Fortunately for Big Sam the influential midfielder has insisted that he will return to Africa for the competiton.

Okocha could be away from the Reebok Stadium for about five weeks, meaning he will miss Bolton's Carling Cup semi-final against Aston Villa. [+]

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    Your Verdict:

    I don't think Sam is being fair to Okocha by putting pressure on him to quit playing for Nigeria. Okocha has already shown great flexibility by delaying his departure as long as possible. He has also shown commendable commitment to Bolton not only by the way he plays on the field but also by his consistent passionate expression of loyalty to Bolton.

    Sam has to realize that Okocha is the Nigerian team captain and a lot is expected of him to lead by example. This competition is much more important to Nigeria than the European Championship is to England.

    It seems to me like double standards to encourage Nigeria's captain to quit the team when it is inconceivable that anybody would suggest that Beckham or any member of the English squad should quit playing for England in major international competitions.

    Nigeria already has enough problems and deserves better from England and her citizens.

    Charles Ugwu, Canada


    I can understand Sam Allardyce's grief as regards having to do without Jay Jay during a very crucial period in their Premiership and Carling Cup campaign, but he must understand that OKOCHA is the SOUL of the Nigerian team. Right now he is IRREPLACEABLE and a fundamental factor in the success of the Nigerian Team in the coming African Nations Cup.

    His statement on wishing he could get a court injunction restraining the Nigerian Football Association from securing the services of our dear Captain is selfish and wicked to say the least, yet I feel his pain.

    Sam, you are a good coach. I am sure you can still work with the players you have to produce the results you desire.

    Daniel Anyanwu


    Your news reports today quoting Sam Allardyce on Okocha has finally made it clear that the man understands neither what it takes to be a Nigerian called Jay Jay Okocha nor what it is to be Captain of the Super Eagles.

    Let me educate him on both points:

    1. In this country, after President Obasanjo, the next most important person is probably Austin Jay Jay Okocha. Jay Jay knows this. £30,000 a week or whatever will not make him any less aware of this massive responsibility to 200 million people.

    2. The captain of the Super Eagles is practically the head of football in Nigeria, he is an icon and can do little wrong. Putting on that armband and the number 10 jersey, hearing the crowd chanting songs in his name and much more will always mean more than playing in the Millennium stadium in Wales.

    Big Sam should put up or shut the hell up! We admire him in Nigeria but he should stop whining and sounding like a broken record. Jay Jay will play for Nigeria till he can play no more!

    Folahanmi Fagbule


    I have no sympathy whatsoever with Sam Allardyce. He's made a deliberate policy of stacking his side with overseas players, and it's a bit rich to start crying in his Bovril when they play well and get selected for the National team.

    The African Nations Cup is a FIFA sanctioned tournament, and Nigeria are fully entitled to select their best players. And to say he'll ask Okocha to retire from international football is a disgrace.

    Isn't there some rule that non-EU players must play a certain percentage of their country's internationals to remain in the UK?

    Fred Dixon, Australia


    I think Sam Allardyce is being ungrateful. The NFA had to give a special consideration to the captain of our Super Eagles just because of his club's position and what do we get?

    Sam should understand that every Nigerian has taken Bolton's matches like it is our national team that is playing just because our golden son Jay Jay is there.

    He should respect Jay Jay's decision to play for his country, after all, no matter how much fame and glory he gets elsewhere in the world, he will still have to come back home and his exploits for the home side will count so much by then.

    Besides, Jay Jay is worth much more than Sam is paying him, he has better deals elsewhere but has chosen until this point to remain with Bolton. Sam should not make him see reasons why he should leave.

    If Sam dangles money in front of him, he (Sam) should remember that other clubs will dangle higher amounts and it will then be to the highest bidder.

    Felix Juoffny Richmen, Nsukka, Nigeria.


    While we Nigerians enjoy the exploits of Jay Jay in the Premiership and have become great fans on Bolton Wanderers, we take exception to the fact that big Sam is trying to stop our captain from coming to "the African World Cup".

    A player the whole of Nigeria, and indeed the whole of Africa, is waiting to see at the African Nations Cup. If Youri Djorkeaf were to be invited to the European championships by France, would big Sam have shown the same outrage?

    He must be careful not to loose the support of Africa's most populous nation, a support Bolton got due to the presence of Jay Jay in the team, because of his unguarded statements.

    Long live Bolton Wanderers! Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

    Ogbe Aihevba


    For a while I have been totally fed up with the attitude of European coaches and the like towards African and South American players representing their countries.

    But now the Bolton coach has gone one step to far. Who is he to suggest to a player (Okocha) that he retires from his national team. I have never heard such a selfish and narrow minded view. How would the English coaches feel if foreign coaches started trying to persuade English players to retire from the national team.

    It is every players dream to represent their country. When European coaches sign these players they know they would be playing national team games. But when it happens they start whining like children and causing trouble with the national Football Associations.

    It would be a different issue if players were constantly being called up for meaningless friendly matches. But that is almost never the case.

    Ancelotti is causing trouble over Kaka representing his country in Olympic qualifiers. But the Olympic football tournament is absolutely important to South Americans. In Africa it is almost as important as the World Cup. The victories for Nigeria and Cameroon at the last two Olympic Games were their biggest ever sporting moments even though these are teams which have repeatedly been present at the World Cup.

    Now Allardyce is making a fuss because Okocha is going to play at African Nations cup, which is effectively the equivalent of the world cup.

    If these coaches have a problem with these players representing their country then they should stop signing them.

    Frank Ejueyitchie


    I Think this goes to show how much this genius midfielder is worth both to the club and the nation and I am happy that an amicable solution has been found to prevent the club vs Country row that we have often witnessed especially involving the African National teams.

    Innocent Siyanga


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