Okocha My Favourite African Player- Ferdinand
By Samuel Victor Akpan
Even in retirement, ex-Super Eagles captain Jay Jay Okocha is still greatly admired. And according to former Manchester United and England International Rio Ferdinand, Okocha is much more.
Speaking on Nigeria Info FM’s Football Frenzy show in an exclusive chat, Ferdinand says the former Bolton Wanderers star is up there amongst the best African players.
“Okocha is my favourite”, he reveals.
Ferdinand also expresses his love for African players past and present, saying they have always been a part of his life growing up.
“I love them, they have always been a big part of my culture growing up.”
“When I was younger, I look at George Weah, Tony Yeboah, Abedi Pele, Sunday Oliseh, Yekini, I could name so many African players over the years, and they weren’t just good players, they were great players.”
“And it’s evolved into my era with Eto’o, Didier, Essien, like so many great players. And now, we have Mane, Salah, Mahrez, there’s lots of them and you can go on, and indeed the young ones coming through now.”
But of all the players from the continent he’d faced, Ferdinand says former Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure was almost impossible to play against. He adds that Chelsea legend Didier Drogba is the toughest he ever played against.
“Yaya Toure is the one player that when he turned and faced me, I said, ‘Oh! wow, wow, wow.’ He was a beast, he was a jugular, he could run as fast as anyone, he was powerful and he had silky feet.”
“And they don’t respect him enough I don’t think when they’re talking about the great midfielders of that generation. He’s easily in the top three, top four, easy.”
“But in terms of direct opponents, strikers, Eto’o was like hard cause you know he’s fast, he’s chasing everything, he’s making life difficult all the time and he has quality once he gets in to score goals, he was an amazing player.”
“And Didier, I had a lot of battles with him. Sometimes I slap him and sometimes for 90 minutes I’m killing him, he’s not getting a touch, me and Vida (Vidic) have in the pocket and I’m looking at him in the pocket and saying, ‘Hey Didier.”
Ferdinand reminisced that Drogba’s goal against Manchester United that ensured Chelsea would move a step closer to winning the Premier League title back in 2010 was clearly offside.
“And then in the 91st minute, he scores a goal. One of them was offside I have to say (at Old Trafford), and everytime I see him, I tell him he was offside, he should have put his hand up and be honest. Didier was my toughest opponent.”