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Mario Gomez reveals the Nigerian player who influnced his game

Former Bayern Munich striker, Mario Gomez has revealed that retired Nigeria international, Austin Jay Jay Okocha was a big influence on the player he has become, as he always wanted to play like the legendary midfielder who he called his idol.

The German international writing on The Players’ Tribune, talked about his career in football and how the former Nigeria international had a huge impact on his career.

“See, my dad was from Spain, so he loved football as well. He couldn’t have cared less about the plants, and sometimes he’d even come out and shoot around with me. Except if it was 6 p.m. on a Sunday. Then, there was only one place he’d be: in front of the television watching the weekly football highlights program.

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“I didn’t like watching football on TV. It was always so boring to me. Why sit in front of the screen, when you could go outside and play the game for real?

“Papi, let’s go outside!” I’d say, tugging on his arm. “Let’s play!” One evening when I was about seven or eight, he had finally had enough. Instead of shooing me away, he sat me down right next to him.

“I want you to see this, Mario. Just watch.”

“Nooooo! It’s boring.”

My father pointed at the television, “Look! There! Right now!”

When I looked up, there was an Eintracht Frankfurt player on the screen. He dribbled the ball around the other team’s goalkeeper, then around a defender, and then around another defender — just toying with them — until he chipped it easily into the goal.

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“Woahhhhhh,” I said. “What did he just do?”

“See?” my father said. “That’s Jay-Jay Okocha. And there’s no one else like him.”

“From that moment, I dreamed of playing like Jay-Jay. He was my idol. The way he moved the ball — he was like an artist. He did things with a ball I couldn’t even imagine.

“And after seeing that dribble and that goal, I watched the highlights with my father every Sunday. I even started watching matches with him as well.”


Ajike is one of Nigeria's top Sportscasters with over 15 years of experience in writing and talking Sports.

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