I spent my money to save Nigeria’s Olympic team, says Mikel
Chelsea midfielder, John Obi MIkel, who recently returned to London from a successful Rio 2016 campaign, was brutally honest about the extent of the problems he faced at the games.
In an interview with goal.com, Mikel slammed the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) after he was forced to put up his own money to help his country achieve their remarkable bronze medal at Rio 2016.
The Nigeria captain organised travel, paid for meals and booked training pitches while trying to physically and tactically prepare for games.
The bronze medal, Mikel explained, was his country’s only moment of glory during the Olympics amid the troubles he had in Brazil.
“I think if we talk about the money that I put into the team I think it was more than [£30,000],” Mikel told Goal. “But we just had to do it.
“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, there was no bus to go to the training ground. So all of this was what me 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.”
Narrating the events leading to the team’s first agme against Japan in Manaus, Mikel said, “(After our last minute flight) we got to the hotel, dropped our bags, grabbed some sandwiches, something to eat. A little bit of food. Then headed straight back to the stadium because we hadn’t even done our accreditations then, so we had to go there and wait in the line, do our accreditation.
“It was absolutely hectic. I don’t know how we managed to go onto the pitch and win that game, it was absolutely mind blowing.”
The Chelsea midfielder appeared relaxed and happy after returning home to join up with Antonio Conte’s squad as they prepare to face Swansea City yesterday.
He was bursting with pride as he reflected on a successful tournament, which culminated with a 3-2 bronze-medal match win over Honduras.
“Sometimes I wear my medal around the house, it gets my missus jealous,” he joked as he showed off his medal. “The kids love playing with the medal. I am sure one day they will know what this really means.
“We had lots of problems outside the pitch, but I always told the boys that you shouldn’t let that affect what we came here to do. We still want to achieve what we came here to do. We still have to represent our country and play for ourselves and our family and the people of Nigeria.
• Culled from goal.com.