Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi hoping to emulate uncle Jay-Jay Okocha’s success

Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi hoping to emulate uncle Jay-Jay Okocha’s success

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Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi played in all three of Nigeria’s games at the 2018 World Cup in Russia

Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi wants to match his uncle Austin ‘Jay-Jay’ Okocha by winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria at his first attempt.

Okocha was part of the winning Super Eagles team in 1994 at his maiden appearance at the finals.

The 22-year-old was born in Lagos to Okocha’s sister and arrived in the UK aged four.

“I’ve seen some of his highlights from 1994 and it would be cool to achieve that as well,” Iwobi told BBC Sport.

“I’m excited, I have always dreamt of participating and representing my country at the African Cup of Nations, but it won’t be easy for us in Egypt

“Both dreams are coming true, hopefully I can get to play in Egypt.”

Nigeria, who won a third title in 2013 but have missed the last two tournaments, will face Guinea, Madagascar and Burundi at June’s finals in Egypt.

He admits that he is still learning about just how passionate Nigerian fans are.

“I thought I understand what playing for Nigeria truly means, but the more I play in Nigeria and travel home, the more they [fans] make me believe bigger than I have always dreamt of,” he added.

“The more I see the the passion, the hunger that everyone wants for us to get there and do well. I think when I get there I will understand a bit more than I do now.”

Okocha comparisons

Alex Iwobi’s uncle Jay-Jay Okocha won the Africa Cup of Nations and the Olympics with Nigeria

Iwobi represented England at under-16, 17 and 18 level before switching allegiance to Nigeria and has made 27 appearances for the West African nation.

He has since produced some stunning rainbow flicks and tricks that has conjured images of Okocha in his pomp and showcased his nephew’s undoubted ability.

Despite saying he wants to be his own man, the local media and fans continue to liken him to the former Super Eagles captain and Iwobi is unbothered.

“I can never get tired of people comparing us. I see my uncle as an idol, someone I have always looked up to as a footballer,” he said.

“When people compare me to him… it’s like ‘wow’ maybe they see me on his level but I don’t believe I am there yet.

“It is what it is, he’s a skilful player, I’m quite skilful myself so they are always going to compare me to him especially that he’s my uncle.

“I still have a long way to go, maybe one day I can be on his level or greater.”

The Super Eagles had a disappointing 2018 World Cup – where he was one of the more experienced figures in a Nigeria squad that was the youngest (with an average of 25) of all the teams in Russia.

The Nigerian fans had hoped that Iwobi would play a key role in Russia but were left disappointed that the Arsenal player was only given a half against Croatia and late substitute appearances against Iceland and Argentina.

He is hoping for a better campaign in Egypt as the country chase a fourth title at the newly expanded finals.

“We were unfortunate not to go past the group stage in Russia, I think the team did well,” Iwobi said.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t play as much as I would’ve liked to but I can only look to helping the team when needed.

“We’ve heard people say stuff like going there to win it and some have pointed out that as a young and inexperience squad it will be a huge pressure.

“I don’t see it as pressure, I think if we can continue to play like we did during the qualifiers we’d have a successful tournament.

“Collectively we picked lessons in Russia and we need to make it count now.”

In October 2015 Iwobi made his debut against DR Congo in a friendly in Belgium and has scored five goals including in the 2-1 friendly defeat by England at Wembley last year.

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