Nigeria: Obi Stars in Olympics’ ‘Big Boys’ Club

Nigeria captain John Mikel Obi is one of only two players at the 2016 Olympic Games men’s tournament with as many as 75 senior caps. The other is South African goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.

Mikel, 29, is one of two over-aged players in the Nigeria squad, with the other being goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi of South African side, Chippa United. His career has seen him lace his boots at all levels for Nigeria from the age category to the senior level.

The Chelsea midfielder starred for the Nigeria U-17 squad at the FIFA U17 World Cup in Finland in 2003, where the team coached by Augustine Eguavoen failed to reach the knockout rounds.

In 2005, he was in the U-20 squad under the guidance of Samson Siasia which won the continental championship in Benin, before reaching the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in the Netherlands few months later. The Flying Eagles were pipped 2-1 in that final by an Argentine team that included Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero.

The 29 -year old midfield enforcer won his first senior cap for Nigeria in a friendly against Libya in Tripoli on 17th August 2005, and would then score a brilliant goal against Zimbabwe at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt the following year as Nigeria scooped bronze.

He also scored at the Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana in 2008, though the Super Eagles were eliminated in the quarter -finals. The same year, he opted out of Nigeria’s squad to the men’s football tournament of the Olympics due to club commitments.

Two years later, Obi also missed the FIFA World Cup in South Africa as a result of injury, despite playing a huge role for the Eagles in qualifying.

A mainstay at English giants, Chelsea, he was key for Nigeria as the Super Eagles won the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, and also starred at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil (where he scored against Uruguay).

Mikel was also impressive for Nigeria in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying series, and played in all four matches for the Super Eagles in Brazil.

Besides the anchor of the Super Eagles, he has also been named captain of Nigeria’s delegation for the Olympic Games set for Rio de Janeiro in the ensuing days.

Source: Confederation of African Football.