John Obi Mikel (2nd L) carries the UEFA Champions League trophy with some of his Chelsea team mates
By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Ahead of Nigeria’s make or mar two-legged 2013 African Cup of Nations qualifiers against Liberia, former Super Eagles mercurial play maker, Austin Jay Jay Okocha has said that the senior national team needs the services of Chelsea FC player, John Mikel Obi.
Speaking at the unveiling of the Nigeria Pitch Awards in Lagos Tuesday, Okocha insisted that Mikel and other established top Super Eagles players were needed to reinforce the team despite their being snubbed by the handlers of the team at the moment.
With the final round of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier set to be played between September and October and with the World Cup qualifiers also looming, Okocha believes the team and the coaching crew need Mikel now more than ever before.
“The team has been doing well in the absence of some key players, but we are all looking at the ways by which Eagles can improve in every game they play, and bringing in someone like Mikel will definitely be a big advantage for Nigeria.
“The truth is that, no matter what anyone is thinking about him (Mikel), he is playing regularly in a very big team like Chelsea and therefore he should be an important player for us at the national team level,” observed Okocha, who is a member of the Technical Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation.
The former Bolton Wanderers playmaker, however, praised Eagles’ supremo, Stephen Keshi for his efforts toward producing a solid national team that will meet the expectations of soccer-loving Nigerians after the recent slump that culminated in the country not qualifying for the last AFCON jointly hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
He insisted that the infusion of more home-based players into the emerging Eagles was a step in the direction.
“I followed their recent games, especially the last two games and I think the inclusion of more home-based players was in order in the re-building process because no matter how one might look at it, we all played here at home before moving abroad as professionals. But for me, I think the coach should always select players based on their form no matter where they play their club football,” concludes Okocha, who position in the senior national team has not been effectively filled since retiring from the beautiful game.