JOHANNESBURG – Nigerian football legend Jay Jay Okocha described his country's clash with Bafana Bafana in the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations as “personal”.
The Super Eagles won that semi-final clash, thanks to a brace from Tijani Babangida. It was four years after Bafana had won the Afcon on home soil and in that edition, the Super Eagles didn’t feature. But following the beating of Bafana in the last four in 2000 Afcon, the Super Eagles went on to meet Cameroon in the final but lost 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out after the game had ended 2-2 after extra-time.
“It was a match that we took personal,” said Okocha who was speaking at the Carling Black Label Cup launch at Nike Centre yesterday.
“Before the match we were arguing a bit about who was the best in Africa. We felt that South Africa won the 1996 Afcon because Nigeria didn’t take part and we were of the belief that we were the best in Africa. It was a chance for us to claim bragging rights, which we managed to do but we had an advantage because the match was played in Nigeria.”
Going into the clash against South Africa, Okocha admits that he was overwhelmed to meet his friends in the Bafana jersey but had to be professional and do the job at hand. However, getting an early lead made things easier for them.
“We took control of the game early and from there we could do what we wanted. After scoring the first goal (in the first minute) our confidence grew.”
Now, 19 years later, a lot has happened between the two nations as the rivalry has intensified. The latest result was a 1-1 draw in the qualifiers of the ongoing Afcon. But before that, the two teams clashed in Uyo in the first leg and the South Africans won the encounter by 2-0.
That rivalry will be renewed tomorrow though as Bafana and Nigeria will clash in the quarter-finals of the Afcon at Cairo International Stadium (9pm Kick-off SA Time).
The South Africans marched into the last eight of the tournament thanks to a solitary strike from Thembinkosi Lorch against hosts Egypt in the last 16.
Set to pose a threat against the Nigerians, Okocha believes they have enough personnel to keep Lorch silenced.
“They are sharing the responsibilities now and going forward you have to two players (Lorch and Percy Tau) that could cause problems for any team but I am sure we are aware of that.”@Mihlalibaleka