JOHN MIKEL OBI: The Quintessential Footballer Retires @35

...Sunday Dare, supporters club, world stars react

By Akeem Busari

There comes a time when you hear that call. There comes a time when the head directs, but the body is unwilling to follow. The comes a time when the physical demands of playing football requires a spontaneous synergy with the brains, but the body metabolism can’t flow with it.

He knew the demands required of his world class talent. He knew he couldn’t afford to lower his high standards in the game. He knew too, when to pull the curtain on his illustrious football career.

Mikel John Nchekwube Obinna was born and raised in Jos, Plateau State. And like every other Nigerian football loving kid, he started out on the streets and sandy fields in Jos, and eventually, joined the famous Pepsi Football Academy, established by late Coach Kashimawo Laloko.

Rewind to the 2003 U17 World Cup Championship held in Finland. That’s where the football world first had a brief glimpse of his precocious talents. Two years later, he stunned the world during the 2005 U20 World Cup Championship in Holland. He was outstanding for the Flying Eagles, which he marshalled to the final match where they lost 1-2 to Argentina led by the iconic Lionel Messi.

The world of football went on salivating and it was no surprise that two top English teams, Chelsea and Manchester United went to war in battle for his signature in what was his major professional contract. The rest they say, is history now.

Fondly called the ‘Catalyst’ by football fans and aficionados, the football career of John Obi Mikel, is a good study in diligence, hardwork, discipline, passion and uncommon patriotism.

After a rather eventful and trophies laden career of 18 years, including 10 seasons and eight trophies at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea, as well as, playing in two other continents of Africa and Asia, he looked back with sweet memories as he pulled the curtains saying, “I look back at the past 20 years of my career, and I must say that I am very satisfied with all that I was able to achieve an more importantly, the human it has helped shaped.”

“All of this would not have been possible without the unwavering support of my family, managers, clubs, teammates and most importantly, my ever-loyal fans. You supported me through my highs and lows, even on days that I did not live up to your expectations. I say a big thank you,” he stated.

Expectedly, there have been outpouring of eulogies and emotional reactions from football stars and well placed individuals across the world, on the retirement of the 35 years of old quintessential footballer and former captain of the Super Eagles, who is the second most decorated Nigerian footballer after Nwankwo Kanu.

Reacting to the retirement news , Nigeria’ Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Chief Sunday Akin Dare, praised the 2013 AFCON winner on his illutrous career, “I celebrate with you, Mikel John Obi on your retirement as a professional footballer. Thank you for donning the green and white jersey of our fatherland with pride.

“On the biggest of stages abroad, you represented Nigeria as a worthy ambassador with your art. On a tension-filled night in Munich, you dedicated your UEFA Champions League success to our legend, late Rashidi Yekini. We could not be any prouder of you, John.”

National Chairman of Nigeria Football Supporters Club, Ambassador (Rev). Samuel Ikpea, thanked God for the successful career of John Mikel Obi. He also thanked the retired footballer for the  immense joy and happiness he brought to the faces of Nigerian football fans at home and in diaspora during his clubs and national teams career.

“We praise and thank God for giving our own Mikel John Obi a successful playing career. We are also grateful to God who made it possible for him to leave the game in good health and sound mind.

“Thank you, John Mikel Obi, we cannot forget your services to Nigeria through your illustrious football career. On behalf of Nigeria Football Supporters Club, all over the world, I pray that God continue to bless and protect you,” Ikpea added.

Former teammates at Chelsea and Nigeria national team, the likes of former Chelsea captain John Terry, Salomon Kalou, Felipe Luis, Oghenekaro Etebo and Odion Ighalo, among others, were effusive in their tributes to him. They praised his qualities, discipline and good nature. Describing their playing time with him as rare privileges.

Brief Profile:

•91 caps for Super Eagles (6 Goals);

•Captain of Super Eagles between 2015 to 2021;

•Won AFCON Gold (South Africa 2013);

•Olympics Bronze Medal (Rio 2016);

•Played for 8 Football Clubs namely; Plateau United, Lyn Oslo, Chelsea, Tianjin TEDA, Middlesbrough, Trabzonspor, Stoke City and Kuwait SC;

* 3 FA Cups;

*2 EPL trophies;

*1 UEFA Champions League;

*1 Europa League title.

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