Super Eagles goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa has described John Obi Mikel as a special player who was more than a captain during his time with the Super Eagles.
Mikel retired from national duty following Nigeria’s third-place finish at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt, where he battled a knee strain and was restricted to just two appearances.
Ezenwa played alongside the former Trabzonspor midfielder during his 14-year international career, and he revealed his drive to seek knowledge from him whenever they met in camp.
“He doesn’t know whether you are home-based or foreign-based, he tries to bring everybody together in camp,” Ezenwa told Goal.
“He is not the type that talks too much, he knew what was at stake, and he tried to carry everybody together. He made me realise that you can achieve whatever you want if you are determined and you believe in yourself.
“He is a special person, and he made everybody realise that one day in football, you can get to his level and the only way to do that is all about self-confidence.
“I found time to go to his room when we were in camp, so he opens up to me, and the way he talks and advises is just one of the things I’ve pocketed.”
Mikel endured some unfortunate incidents with his father kidnapped twice, in 2011 and in 2018, before the country’s last group match against Argentina at the Fifa World Cup in Russia.
Despite the challenges, Ezenwa believes the 33-year-old is loved by Nigerians, and he gave an instance on why he thinks he is an outstanding leader.
“After the Algeria defeat when we returned to our base, he tried to encourage one or two players. He is a calm person who knows what to do at the right time, and he speaks on behalf of everybody,” he added.
“Nigerians like Mikel, though it is not everybody that will like him in this world. I think he has a large fan
base in Nigeria that appreciates him for what he’s done for the country.
“I will never forget when I picked up an injury before the Africa Cup of Nations, he showed concern during that period, he checked up on me almost every time.
“It’s not everybody who has time for something that, but the whole team did their best. Mikel showed so much concern. I think he has this special feeling for people.”