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Sunday, 9 June, 2002, 18:13 GMT 19:13 UK
Okocha quits for club career
Jay Jay Okocha
Okocha says playing for Nigeria has cost him club success

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Nigerian captain Jay Jay Okocha says the main reason he has decided to stop playing for the Super Eagles is so he can concentrate on his club football career.

"It's a difficult decision to take, but it's better to quit now rather than being forced to quit because I'm no longer wanted," the 28-year-old midfielder told BBC Sport Online.

Compromises

"It's best to go when I'm still at the top, rather than when I'm no longer at my peak."

Okocha is looking for a new club after leaving Paris Saint Germain at the end of last season, and he says he does not want to have to make any more compromises.

"Playing in the national team has cost me a lot," Okocha said.

"There have been advantages, but it's cost me a lot on the club side of things. It's very difficult for we Africans playing in Europe to cope with the schedules.

"The African Nations Cup is played during the European season, and it always causes us problems."

Okocha has played for Nigeria for nine years. He was part of Super Eagles' golden era, going to their first World Cup in 1994, and winning Africa's first Olympic football gold in 1996.

Jay Jay Okocha in action at USA '94
Okocha's first World Cup was USA '94
Although many people are looking to him to help Nigeria though this low point in their history, he says it is time for others to take over.

Opportunity

"I think I can still help, but I don't know if I can cope with the stress of playing in the national team," Okocha conceded.

"It's not as easy as people think. There have been good and bad times, so I think I will feel more relaxed if I go.

"It's not easy flying all over Africa for qualifying games - the standards and facilities make it difficult to play. Maybe I've had enough.

"I think it's best for me to give the younger ones the opportunity that I had to do better than my set of players are doing."

Never say never

And failing to make the second round of this World Cup is one of the biggest disappointments in the Nigerian captain's international career.

He conceded that even after the memory has faded, its unlikely he will be inspired to play for the Super Eagles again.

"It will be difficult for me to change my mind, but you can never say never.

"It's been a great pleasure playing for my country. Wearing that jersey is an honour.

"Maybe one day if they are in a very difficult situation I might feel that it would be necessary for me to help and I could change my mind.

"But I don't see that situation coming up."


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