By Akinwale Kasali
John Obi Mikel is yet to dorn the green and white jersey since the Super Eagles were booted out at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at the group stage of the mundial. Since then, Obi is yet to feature for the Gernot Rohr tutored team.
Obi ruled himself out of the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifiers against Seychelles in Victoria and the double header against Libya early this month.
Reason for Obi’s absence was that he needed to concetrate more on his club career in China with Tiajin Teda Football Club, where he has been made captain of the team.
Though, soccer analysts are of the opinion that Obi hasnt been missed from the Super Eagles fold, as Ahmed Musa, Ogenyi Onazi and Troost-Ekong has filled the vacuum of the playmaker, as the team had won three staright games to sit on top of the AFCON qualifiers table with nine points ahead of their closest rival, the Bafana Bafana of South Africa.
The Super Eagles team spokesman, Toyin Ibitoye has come to the defense of the former Chelsea midfielder saying that he hasnt quit the national team as speculated by some section of soccer enthusiasts.
“Mikel has not retired from international football,” said Ibitoye. “He remains the captain of the national team.
“But the reality of it is that he is not getting any younger. And the positive (from this) is that other players now have a chance to step up in his absence.”
Mikel, 31, made his debut for the Super Eagles in 2005 and has represented the county at Under-17, Under-20 and Olympic team levels.
He has played in two World Cups, in 2014 and 2018, and has featured in four AFCON tournaments since making his debut appearance at the African showpiece in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2013.