We are focusing more on rivalry between SA and Nigeria – Okocha

“We are focusing more on their rivalry between South Africa and Nigeria instead of focusing on qualifying for the World Cup.” 

These are the words of legendary Nigerian footballer Jay-Jay Okocha, who said Bafana Bafana and the Super Eagles should be shifting their focus on ensuring that they secure qualification for the 2026 Fifa World Cup.

Bafana and the Super Eagles currently sit on number two and three, respectively in their World Cup qualifier Group C after two matches.

Bafana won their opening match against Benin and were shellshocked by Rwanda, who beat them in the second group match.

The Super Eagles have not registered a win so far. They were held to two 1-1 draws against underdogs Lesotho and Zimbabwe over a month ago.

Okocha, who capped on 73 occasions for Nigeria and is regarded as one of the greatest African players of all time, said the long-time rivalry between South Africa and Nigeria should not distract them from securing a spot in the World Cup.

For the love of the game

“We [Nigeria and South Africa] didn’t get off to a good start and I can say that we are lucky that Bafana Bafana lost their second game,” Okocha said during the Bundesliga 60-year celebration last week.

“I think we are focusing more on the rivalry between South Africa and Nigeria instead of focusing on qualifying. It’s a big surprise that Rwanda is topping the group.

“So, I think we [Nigeria and South Africa need to] change the mindset and focus on the qualification instead of focusing on our rivalry.”

Meanwhile, the 50-year-old outlined the difference between the current and previous generation, saying footballers today are driven by money than the love of the game.

“I think we are losing a bit of that African mojo when it comes to playing football because I can tell you that I could have played for free,” said Okocha.

“If you ask Sibusiso Zuma [who was also in attendance at the Bundesliga 60-year celebration], he can tell you the same thing.

“Now football is more of a profession than passion, players go into football knowing that it is a profession. We played because we loved the game, and did not even know we were going to make a living out of it.

“So, for my generation, the passion came first, the love second and then the money last. That is what we are missing today, players don’t do it for the love anymore, but what they will gain at the end.”

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