Yes, John Obi Mikel started his Super Eagles sojourn in Egypt 2006 AFCON where he was described by our ever vibrant press as the “Heir Apparent” and “Crown Prince” to succeed then team playmaker and skipper, Austin Okocha.
Mikel fulfilled that dream, or was it a prophecy? He did not only wear the revered No. 10 shirt of Jay Jay as the later exited but Mikel went further to captain the Super Eagles and even the Olympic Eagles to the Rio 2016 Games.
Mikel featured in two World Cup tournaments (Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018). He would have made it three like Okocha (USA ’94, France ’98 and Korea/Japan 2002) but injury stopped what would have been his debut World Cup in 2010…..and like Okocha who was part of Tunisia ’94 triumph, Mikel won the AFCON title in 2013.
Sure, Mikel is quitting the national team on a high just like his colleague Jude Odion Ighalo. Aside not winning Egypt 2019 AFCON which probably would hurt Ighalo deeply, he had a splendid tournament emerging as one of the top scorers.
Here was a player who apologised to Nigerians for a dismal display at Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup and a year after he carried the burden of scoring most of the goals in the qualifiers leading to Egypt 2019….gladly in the tournament proper Ighalo made up for his mess ups in Russia.
Today, both senior players of the Super Eagles are saying goodbye to the national team they will forever cherish.
In life there is a time for everything according to the book of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 from verse 1 to 8. Yes, Mikel and Ighalo have gotten to the end of their international careers but they will relish every moment they shared in the Super Eagles with their teammates.
Of course, they also had close relationship aside being Super Eagles teammates. They were both in the EPL for Chelsea and Watford respectively. They were foes on the pitch but brothers after games. They went to China for Tianjin Teda and Shangai Shengua respectively where they continued in the spirit of brotherhood to be their brother’s keeper.
What a time for them to quit! What a way to end a gracious and memorable stay in the national team. Saying goodbye from the land of Pharaoh leaves a lot to remember and be remembered. Recall that at separate times, the duo were junior internationals who left solid marks before graduating to the senior team.
What can we say to these players? For Mikel, we will say THANK YOU the Catalyst as you are fondly called, and to Ighalo, we say THUMBS-UP Goal poacher.
Best wishes guys as you enter a new phase in your careers looking up to final quits in few years time.
By Desmond Ekweme.