Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi has revealed he had to foot the bill to help Nigeria win an Olympic bronze medal after the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports failed to take responsibility.
The 29-year-old had to put up more than £30,000 to organise travel for the team, pay for food and book training pitches ahead of the trip to Brazil which ended in his country’s 3-2 win against Honduras – providing the only medal for Nigeria at Rio 2016.
With lack of support for their training camp in Atlanta – where the Dream Team led by Nwankwo Kanu won a gold medal in 1996 – Mikel took matters into his own hands to help the team realise their Olympic dream, with help from coach Samson Siasia.
“I think if we talk about the money that I put into the team I think it was more than (£30,000),
but we just had to do it” Mikel told Goal.com
“I said to myself, ‘I won’t let this happen. If I can help, I’ll try to help’. Sometimes there was no food, sometimes there was no pitch to train on, and there was no bus to go to the training ground. So all of this was what I and the coach had to figure out, and get money together.
“I came to the camp. I sat down with the boys in Atlanta and I could see the frustration, the pain and the anger. Their aim was to play in the Olympics; their goal was to play in the Olympics.
“And for me being there and seeing what they are going through, they are young boys, they want to start their career and someone in the ministry is trying to crush that dream.”
“There was just no flight provided by the Nigerian ministry,” he added. “We planned to leave three or four days before the tournament, but we ended up leaving the day of our first game. It was a difficult one. I don’t think I have ever seen something like that before, it was crazy.”
Nigeria beat Sweden, Colombia, Japan and Denmark in Rio, before a 2-0 defeat to Germany saw them in the bronze medal play off against Honduras.