13 June 2018

Nigeria: Mikel Obi - I Was Born Michael but Ended Up With Mikel Tag

Photo: Super Eagles/Twitter
Eagles get customised locker room in Pidgin English with slogan "Eagles don land!"

Super Eagles Captain John Mikel Obi is not the only player to have fallen a victim of inheriting the name he was not given at birth. Prominent footballer like Emmanuel Amuneke who was tagged Amunike suffered same fate until lately as a retired footballer. Both players were destined to face the fate the new names will bring to them playing for the national football team. In this report, Mikel revealed to FEMI SOLAJA how he embraced the new name till date. Excerpts...

Dateline was 2002, when the Golden Eaglets technical crew had assembled young crop of players in preparations for the African qualifying matches to the FIFA U-17 tournament in Finland in 2003. The young Obi was among the aspiring talents aiming to soar to greater height with the tournament as stepping stone. According to Obi, "my real name is John Michael Obi unfortunately, somebody mis-spelt my name and since then I have being living with it without any regret.

"I did not notice it in the first place because my desire to represent Nigeria at international competition was uppermost in my mind. Although we crashed out in the group stage, the event was a ladder for me to reach the top following offers from abroad. All I did was to consult with my dad and he did not see anything wrong in my adopting the name, Mikel and since them I've moved from glory to glory," Mikel revealed to THISDAY before the team departed Port Harcourt for the Mundial.

The Tianjin Teda FC midfielder who is leading Nigeria at the Mundial in Russia said the tournament is special to him considering the fact that his girl friend is from Russia. "I am at home here in Russia and it will be a unique thing playing before my in laws," he remarked with a smile.

"My girl friend is delighted that I'm leading the Nigerian team to her homeland and you know that family comes first in anything we do. She has been very supportive and she knows my desire to lead Nigeria to glory here in Russia, hence the issue about her allegiance does not come even if Nigeria happens to face host, Russia in the course of this tournament," Mikel remarked.

On the chances of the team to progress into the next round considering the fact that Argentina, Croatia and Iceland are in the group, Mikel insisted that Iceland is the team to watch out for considering the fact that they are the minnows but with hearts of lions.

"Look at what they achieved at the Euro 2016 and the qualifying series to the World Cup is an indication that they have a lot to offer but most people are looking in the direction of Croatia and Argentina.

"Our target is to get positive result in the opening match and this will inspire the team in the subsequent matches even against our perennial World Cup opponent, Argentina," he pointed out.

Although Mikel sees Lionel Messi as a better player to Cristiano Ronaldo in all ramifications, he however believes it's high time he banishes the ghost of always losing to the Argentine.

"It's been long story dating back to 2005 when Flying Eagles of lost 1-2 to Argentina in the final match of FIFA U-20 Championship in Holland and since then nothing has changed. I think it is time for me to get my revenge considering the quality and determination of the present generation of players in Eagles.

"Lionel Messi, no doubt is world best footballer and he has won and lost matches playing for the national team except Nigeria. He has stole a lot from me and I want to assure Nigerians that the judgment day is here in this World Cup tournament in Russia," Mikel boasted.

THISDAY recalls that the only time Nigeria defeated the Argentine national team was the last International friendly in Russia late last year, unfortunately both team captains were missing in action and thus set another opportunity for them to meet at the forth coming World Cup finals in Russia.

Mikel who is yet to record a goal against Messi at both club and country said that scoring against Argentina is not his priority rather the collective will of the squad is to excel in Russia after the mistakes of the last edition in Brazil.

The only time Mikel was on the winning side against Messi was when Chelsea FC edged FC Barcelona in the semi final of UEFA Champions League in 2012.

"We want to win the World Cup and this goal does not matter even if I did not score any goal. My desire is to lead my country to greatness and that is the story I want to share as I reach the pinnacle of my carrier," he commented.

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