Daily Trust (Abuja)

10 September 2012

Nigeria: Keshi, Officials Disagree On Mikel

Top officials and Eagles coach Stephen Keshi are at daggers drawn over Chelsea ace Mikel Obi after the team's midfield collapsed in Liberia.

Keshi insisted after his team were forced to a 2-2 draw that his midfield was intact and he would only recall Mikel if he is ready to commit to the country's cause.

However, several top officials who accompanied the team to Monrovia have asked that whatever personal differences that may exist between the coach and the Chelsea midfielder be thrashed so that he returns for the return leg match in Calabar next month.

"My two midfielders, Nosa Igiebor and Obiora Nwankwo, had a good game. The only problem was that we played a 4-2-4 formation and we expected that the wingers, Ejike Uzoenyi and Victor Moses, would fall back into midfield when we are defending and they often did not," Keshi explained.

The Eagles coach showed his irritation that the issue of Mikel has again been brought to the front burner.

"I have said before that Mikel is still very much part of my team, but he has to show his commitment to the team for me to recall him," defended Keshi.

A top team official informed MTNFootball.com that the team had expected the Chelsea star to get in touch with Keshi after it was later known that the qualifier in Liberia will be played on a grass pitch against the earlier suggestion that it will be played on astro turf.

"If he were committed to the country, he would have agreed to play on any surface but since he opted out of the game in Liberia because it was first thought would be played on artificial pitch, which he said affects him, one would have also thought that after it was learnt the game will be played on grass, he would have called to play," argued the official.

A top Nigeria Football Federation official simply told MTNFootball.com: "I will not tell Keshi to call Mikel or not to call him because we will not impose any player on him."

However, several officials who accompanied the team to Liberia were very clear on the need to recall Mikel beginning with the return leg in October in Calabar.

House of Representative committee on sports member Abdul Wudil demanded: "The midfield was porous and we therefore have to get Mikel back. So, whatever differences the coach may have with him and Osaze (Odemwingie) must be addressed before the next game."

"As a matter of urgency, Mikel and Osaze must be recalled because even though they are good, the players from the Nigeria league have struggled when it matters most," added Senator Abdulaziz Usman.

"Mikel and Osaze are matured players who can still hold their own against anybody."

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