Former Super Eagles captain Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha has said it is “twice difficult” for an African to emerge as the best player in the world. The retired midfielder said this on Friday while being interviewed on CNN shortly after Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar were shortlisted for the 2017 FIFA Men Best Footballer award.
Okocha, who twice came close to winning the African footballer of the year award, said players from the continent have to contend with a great deal of pressure, hence limiting their ability to compete.
“I think as an African player, it is twice more difficult for you to win it,” he said.
“Because from onset your are playing on different kind of pressure- pressure to push yourself, pressure to eradicate poverty, pressure to be successful and I think by doing that, you will lose focus sometimes and quit trying to be the best because you have other things you are worried about.
“To an extent, I think yes. I have to accept with Yaya Touré because it’s very rare as an African that you will sign for a team and you will be fully accepted.
“You will have to prove yourself. I can even give you an example. At some clubs, they don’t even like to sign African players because of the African Nations Cup.
“The timing of it… it happens in January. But we are working towards that. Maybe we will just adjust our calendar to give the next generation better opportunity to win it.”
Liberian George Weah is the only African to have won the world’s best player of the year award.
Speaking further on the supremacy rivalry between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Okocha said: “They are not normal because it is unreal for you to be that consistent because I played the game and I know how difficult it is.
“I think luckily for both if them, they brought out the best in each other. I think they brought out the hunger in each other to be up there. To prove that one is better than the other.
“So, I think by doing that they kept their games up there.”