To mark its anniversary, Jay-Jay Okocha talks us through the greatest goal of his career and a goal that Jurgen Klopp regards as the greatest the Bundesliga has ever seen...
Friday 9 September 2022 14:51, UK
Jay-Jay Okocha collects the ball from Uwe Bein with only Oliver Kahn to beat. He declines the opportunity to shoot with his left, shifting the ball to his right foot before leaving the Karlsruhe goalkeeper on the grass with an extravagant feint.
Time to shoot? Not for Okocha. He darts left, takes on another defender and cuts back on to his right once more, then back to his left. There is a pause. Kahn has recovered. Slaven Bilic has raced forward off the line to engage. The moment seems to have passed.
It is then and only then that Okocha pulls back his left foot and fires the ball between two defenders and past Kahn into the net. Eintracht Frankfurt have won the game and their young substitute Okocha has scored one of the most memorable goals of all-time.
It is the greatest goal in the history of the Bundesliga, according to Jurgen Klopp. Kahn, that magnificent German goalkeeper, says he is still dizzy from the experience in 1993. Okocha settles for calling it the favourite goal of his long and brilliant career.
"It just took longer than I expected," he says.
The shot might have come first time but Kahn was right there. "It wasn't planned, you know. It was a counter-attack and when I got the ball, I had the goalkeeper in front of me, so I pretended as if I was going to shoot to get rid of him, but he didn't want to go away."
A second feint shook off Kahn but by then the box was crowded. "As I was trying to dribble him, some defenders got back. All I was trying to do was to find that gap to take the shot and, fortunately, for me, I managed to get that," Okocha explains.
"After a few seconds."
Eleven, in fact. Eleven seconds from the moment Okocha received the ball to the moment he deposited it into the net to win the game. Nothing, really. But enough to feel interminable when watching it and enough to transform a man's career.
This was the world's introduction to Jay-Jay - so good they named him twice. His international debut for Nigeria had come only a few months earlier. This was a fledgling career. Remarkably, given his chutzpah, this was his third top-flight goal.
Having risen from the obscurity of Germany's third division, he was at the start of his second season at Eintracht Frankfurt. "It is a club that I'll say gave me the first opportunities as a professional so it will always have a special place in my heart," he says.
It was the first real glimpse of a talent that would go on to entertain the football world for the next decade or so. In England, Okocha is best known for his time at Bolton Wanderers, when he was good enough to grace the Premier League with his extraordinary flair.
Globally, his World Cup exploits with Nigeria and an Olympic gold medal in 1996 brought him fame. But in Germany it is that one goal that resonates most. In this social media age, it is that 11 seconds with the ball at his feet for Eintracht Frankfurt that endures.
The presence of Kahn adds to the power of the story, of course. Back then, he was an uncapped young goalkeeper yet to move to Bayern Munich let alone be named the man of the match in a Champions League final or the world's best goalkeeper three times over.
The sight of the regal Kahn left lunging this way and that is all part of the spectacle. The denouement comes just before Okocha rips off his shirt in celebration. Kahn's face sinks to the turf, his body limp. This charismatic giant of a goalkeeper, beaten and bereft.
Asked if he has discussed the moment with Kahn since, Okocha smiles that smile of his and the grin widens. "No, I mean, he is a big lad, you know," he says, chuckling at the thought of it. "He looks a bit scary. I don't think it would be wise for me to talk to him about it."
Everyone else is only too happy to mention it.
"Even now, people still talk about it. The goal changed a lot for me. It was like the goal that brought me to the limelight in Europe, you know, because it was shown in so many countries. I can only say that I am happy that it happened."
A thought occurs.
"It ended up working out well for me, you know, but then could you have imagined what would have happened to me if I had missed?"
Klaus Toppmoller, the Eintracht Frankfurt coach who would go on to take Bayer Leverkusen to a Champions League final, left Okocha in no doubt afterwards. He told him that he would never have picked him again if he had not eventually put the ball into the net.
Thankfully for the rest of us, Okocha just did not think like that.
He always embraced the fun.
The story of one of football's greatest ever showmen and how he came to light up the Premier League
For some, it was a flaw. Bernd Holzenbein, Eintracht Frankfurt legend and World Cup winner, has since said that much of what Okocha produced on the pitch was "unprofitable art" - describing him as a player who was more circus act than match-winner.
But the streets of Frankfurt do not forget. When it came time for the fans to select the greatest XI in their history, Okocha, with more relegations than trophies in his four seasons at the club, was included. A celebration of his talent and a lament to a lost age.
Will we see another Jay-Jay Okocha? It is not likely.
"I think every player is unique, you know," says the man himself.
"We have got a lot of talented players in the Bundesliga."
And then, that trademark pause...
"But, with all due respect, maybe I was a little bit special."