Utaka: Former Super Eagles and Montpellier Player Shares How Kanu and Okocha Inspired Him

Tolulope Esan

Jul 28, 2020
John Utaka has recounted how former Nigerian internationals Nwankwo Kanu and Jay-Jay Okocha served as a source of inspiration to him.

The forward watched on television as Kanu inspired the West Africans to win the 1996 Olympic Gold medal in Atlanta.

Utaka then got a chance to play with the former Arsenal star in the Super Eagles in 2000 after he was handed his first call-up following his impressive performances for Egyptian club Ismaily.

The winger, who had 49 caps for the three-time African champions, revealed the roles of Kanu and Okocha in helping him to settle in the national team.

“Kanu competed in the Olympic games. He inspired me a lot because he was not a fast player but he is very smart and very technical in games,” Utaka told the Montpellier website.

“When I got my first call-up to Nigeria in 2000, he was there with Okocha and for me it was… I was watching them on TV and there I was playing with them. It was a dream fulfilled.

“They encouraged me by telling me not to be afraid to express myself as I knew how to do and especially to listen to the coaches. It was good advice.”