Fresh from captaining Nigeria’s football team to a bronze medal in the Rio Olympics, a joyous John Mikel Obi has put the landmark achievement into words and also provided details on his return to the Chelsea set-up.
Mikel was one of two overage players selected by Nigeria coach Samson Siasia – the same man who led Nigeria to the final of the Under-20 World Cup in 2005 when Mikel was instrumental.
Our midfielder used all the considerable experience he has gained during his 10 years at Stamford Bridge, and as a seasoned international and Africa Cup of Nations winner, to mentor his young teammates, the vast majority of whom
are in the very early days of their footballing careers.
Positioned in a number 10 role throughout the tournament – which concluded with Brazil’s thrilling penalty shoot-out win over Germany – Mikel scored one goal and created four more. The dynamic Nigerian ‘Dream Team’ progressed as group winners, beat Denmark in the quarter-finals and then got the better of Honduras in the bronze-medal match on Saturday, having lost to the Germans in the last four.
‘I was obviously very clear before travelling to Brazil that my target was the gold medal, but to get the bronze is still an amazing achievement,’ Mikel said in his Evening Standard column.
‘There was a celebration at the hotel afterwards, we were all jumping around. Everyone was so excited. But we managed to get everyone to sit down together and have a team meal. After everything we have been through, it was great to have something to show for it and we all thanked each other.
‘It really is a dream come true for me. I might take the medal to the Chelsea training ground to show to the other players – I hope I don’t make them jealous though!’
Mikel, who is keen to participate in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 having helped Nigeria secure a first medal in any sport since 2008, also stressed how the experience has given him physical and psychological benefits as he prepares to rejoin Antonio Conte’s squad at Cobham.
‘It’s provided me with a nice lift as I return to Chelsea. I will go back to see the manager and see what his plans are for me. I want to get back into training and prove myself. I want to play and help the team to win games.
‘I know it will be difficult because I have missed most of pre-season and the coach has a new way of playing. But it is a positive thing for me that I have been playing well in Brazil and I’m in good shape.
‘I will need a few days off first because this tournament has been so draining. I arrive back in London on Wednesday morning and the game against Burnley on Saturday will come too early to feature in.
‘The plan is to have a little break, which is why the timing couldn’t be better as the season stops for two weeks for international fixtures after the Burnley game anyway.
‘It will give me plenty of time to enjoy my bronze medal and reflect on what has been a magical few weeks in my football career.’
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