Nigeria will not be in the pots on Friday in Doha during the 2022 World Cup’s final draw, but one Nigerian is certainly going to be among the draw assistants.
Former Super Eagles captain Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha has been picked by world football governing body FIFA to serve as an assistant during the draw.
He is performing this duty alongside seven others, which include two former World Cup winners Cafu of Brazil and Lothar Matthäus of Germany.
They will be joined by five other record-breakers and history-makers, while Carli Lloyd, Jermaine Jenas and Samantha Johnson will form the conducting team.
Our correspondent reports that the final draw will reveal the groups for the 2022 edition of football’s global showpiece.
The five other assistants are Adel Ahmed MalAllah (Qatar), Ali Daei (IR Iran), Bora Milutinović (Serbia/Mexico), Rabah Madjer (Algeria) and Tim Cahill (Australia).
The event will be staged at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre and will get underway at 19:00 local time (18:00 CET).
“I am getting used to this, but it still gives me goosebumps,” said Cafu, who will be taking part in a final draw for the third time.
He has played in three successive FIFA World Cup final matches, in 1994, 1998 and 2002, winning the trophy twice.
“It is a sign that the World Cup finals is getting nearer. It is nearly 20 years since I became the last South American player to lift the World Cup and it is a memory I will always cherish.
“Playing at the World Cup, when your whole country comes to a standstill to watch the game, is incomparable.”
Matthäus captained West Germany to victory in 1990, while Okocha was a playmaking midfielder who helped Nigeria qualify for their first FIFA World Cup in 1994.
Okocha went on to win the Olympic men’s football title two years later.
Cahill scored Australia’s first-ever FIFA World Cup finals goal against Japan in 2006 and also represented the Socceroos in 2010, 2014 and 2018.
Milutinović is the only coach to have managed at five consecutive editions of the FIFA World Cup with different teams.
He was with Mexico (1986), Costa Rica (1990), U.S (1994), Nigeria (1998) and China PR (2002).
There will also be three famous faces from the Middle East among the draw assistants for the first FIFA World Cup in the region.
The host country will be represented by MalAllah, a former defender who represented Qatar at the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1981 when they won the silver medal.
He was also at the Olympic Football Tournament in 1984.
“I’m thrilled to be a draw assistant in my home country, and proud of Qatar. A FIFA World Cup in our region is a dream come true for every Arab footballer and football fan.
“This generation will make history on the pitch and we cannot wait to welcome the world here in just a few months’ time,” said MalAllah.
In 1982, Madjer set Algeria on their way to one of the biggest World Cup upsets in the tournament’s history.
This was when he scored the opening goal in his side’s 2-1 win over West Germany.
Former IR Iran forward Ali Daei was the leading scorer in men’s international football until his remarkable tally of 109 goals was overhauled by Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo in September 2021.
The eight draw assistants will be supported by a conducting team which includes two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion Lloyd.
Football pundit and former England player Jenas and British-Jamaican sports presenter Johnson make up the team.
“It will be a great honour to experience the World Cup atmosphere again, this time as a draw conductor for the men’s tournament.
“As a fan, I’ve been closely following the qualifiers, and as a former player, I can’t wait to share the stage with such legends of the game,” said Lloyd.