- Mikel: I am overwhelmed with this opportunity to be the captain of Team Nigeria
The appointment of Super Eagles Captain and Chelsea stalwart, John Mikel Obi, as captain of Team Nigeria’s 85-man contingent to next month’s summer Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has continued to generate controversies as the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) insisted yesterday that it was not aware of such an important appointment.
On Tuesday evening, Special Assistant to the Minister of Youth and Sports, Nneka Ikem Anibeze sent out a press statement, announcing the appointment of Mikel as Team Nigeria captain to Rio2016. But yesterday when THISDAY sought the views of the Secretary General of the NOC, Hon. Tunde Popoola on the development, he claimed not to be aware of such appointment.
“As the secretary general of the NOC, I want to state categorically that I am not aware of such appointment. If anything at all, the NOC as the body to lead the Nigerian contingent to Rio2016, we should have foreknowledge of such an appointment,” declared the NOC scribe.
Technically, the announcement of Team Nigeria leadership is usually done based on consultation between the NOC and the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports.
A former Nigerian Olympian who did not want his name in print told THISDAY at the National Stadium in Lagos yesterday that if the appointment of Mikel was done to attract international attention to Team Nigeria that was a perfect choice.
“I know Mikel has a huge image globally and has the capacity to attract attention to Team Nigeria at the Games but if it was not, I wonder what informed his choice. We have in that team athletes like Segun Toriola and Olufunke Oshonaike who are going for the seventh and sixth Games in Brazil. Why pick Mikel who is a debutant as captain?” queried the former athlete.
He recalled that in the spirit of Olympics, “Mikel who refused to play for Nigeria at the Beijing 2008 edition of the Games did not deserve to lead Team Nigeria.”
However, in apparent reaction to the controversy generated by his choice, Mikel said he is honoured by the appointment, insisting that he’s going to lead Team Nigeria to win gold medals in Brazil.
“My objective is definitely going to be to carry everyone along. I think it’s important that we all work together, it’s important that we all set one goal, and that goal is to be successful, to win medals, to make sure we get gold medals,” he said.
“Our country has not done very well in recent times at the Olympics, so hopefully we can go to Rio and do well.”
He said he is thrilled with his captaincy of the entire Team Nigeria.
“First and foremost, I will say I am overwhelmed with this opportunity to be the captain of Team Nigeria to the Rio Olympics,” he said.
“This is the highest accolade you can ever have as a sportsman and it’s one I am really looking forward to.
“I am much pleased and very happy with myself for what I have been able to achieve, and grateful to the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports and the entire country for this opportunity.
Mikel added: “It’s massive (responsibility), it’s big, it’s not just the football team. I am the captain of the Super Eagles. Sometimes you look at it and you think that’s a big burden, but this is even much bigger, it’s one that I am looking forward to.
“If you look at my track record at Chelsea, I have always played for the team, I have always been a team player, I have never been an individual player, so I think this is something I will be carrying into the Olympics and carry into Team Nigeria to make sure that we are successful.”
Rio 2016 will be his first Olympics and the 29 –year-old midfielder maintained he is ready to rise to the occasion.
He said: “I don’t think it will be a disadvantage. I think leadership is either you have it or you don’t. Sometimes, people grow into leadership and sometimes people are born with leadership qualities.
“I think I have always been in that leading role since my U-17 days, even when not wearing the captain’s band, I have always had people looking up to me to carry the team,” concludes Mikel in his chat with africanfootball.com from Dream Team vi camp in Atlanta, USA.
Coach Samson Siasia and his wards are scheduled to depart USA for Brazil tomorrow.