Olawale Ajimotokan in Kaduna
John Mikel Obi emerged as the captain of the national team following the sensational demotion of Ahmed Musa to the vice-captain position 24 hours before Nigeria takes on Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Kaduna today.
At a pre-match media parley at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, on Thursday, Musa, the CSKA Moscow striker, insisted the decision to step down for Mikel was at his instance to pave way for the most senior player to become the captain.
Musa said he conceded the band as a way of righting the error made by Sunday Oliseh, who ignored the seniority order before appointing a junior player as the captain.
“I stepped down because there is someone ahead of me and is normal to follow that order. Mikel is my senior and a big brother. So, Mikel is the captain, not me,” Musa said in a measured cadence.
THISDAY however, scooped from team sources that Musa was downgraded to a lesser role because Siasia said he could not be guaranteed a starting a role in an attacking role where there is intense competition.
The captain’s issue was a subject of heated dispute between Oliseh and Vincent Enyeama, who protested that he was side tracked for another player when he was still active with the national team.
Austin Eguavoen first capped Mikel against Libya in a friendly match 2006, while Musa made his first appearance against Madagascar in Calabar in August 2010 in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Siasia described Mikel as the Eagles best player, saying that for him to still be playing for Chelsea for six years is not a joke. He said Mikel is Nigeria’s biggest brand now and deserves to be respected.
He said Musa will be the next person in the line as vice captain in respect of the principle of hierarchy of seniority in the team.
Chelsea midfielder, Mikel, however, praised Musa for being a wonderful professional, saying it takes a man to react in the way he did.
“I commend him (Musa) a lot. I know what is expected of me as a leader. I won’t let the team down as I promise to lead to the best of my ability and guide them to greater height. The Egypt game that will be difficult and it is a game we know we can win because of the quality of players in our team, ‘’ Mikel said.
Siasia doused concern about the depleted central defence following the injuries to Leon Balogun and Kenneth Omeruoh. He said he has cover up defenders that can turn the match around.
Similarly, he said that medical team would assess the availability of winger Aaron Samuel, who took a knock during training on Wednesday evening.
He also said the searing Kaduna heat would not affect the Eagles who have trying to adapt to the weather.
“The boys have been trying to get used to the weather. We will make sure we play smart in the heat; we don’t have to run when it is unnecessary; we should also play smart; we must keep possession of the ball and have to move forward as quick as we can,” Siasia said.
Egypt, who arrived in Kaduna on Wednesday night aboard a charter flight, trained at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium yesterday evening, moment after Eagles had their own workout at the same venue.
The players who are lodged at At Pyramid Hotel are however shielded from the media and have been issued order not to grant interview.