EARLIER in the week, Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung through a press release named Chelsea of England star, John Mikel Obi, Team Nigeria Captain to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to the shock of many stakeholders.
While many had argued that the captaincy should have gone to the oldest participating athlete like Segun Toriola or Funke Oshonaiki both table tennis stars players going to their seventh and sixth Olympic Games respectively, others said Mikel’s popularity and good conduct in Chelsea was enough to make him Team Nigeria captain.
However, former Green Eagles captain, Henry Nwosu, had faulted the action of the Sports Minister declaring that neither Dalung nor the ministry, has the right to name Team Nigeria captain.
“The minister or the sports ministry has no business naming or appointing any athlete Team Nigeria captain. “I was at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and I still remember vividly that it was the Nigeria Olympic Committee, NOC that appointed the overall captain of the contingent.
“Usually, the position should go to the most experienced athlete in the contingent. Where there are athletes that have attended more Games than the others, the captain is picked from that lot taking into consideration the athlete’s disciplinary record and the clout he wields.”
Nwosu, a member of the glorious 1980 Green Eagles squad that won the African Nations Cup for Nigeria for the first time and also served as an assistant coach to the Coach Adegboye Onigbinde at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea/ Japan stated that the moment Team Nigeria is handed over to the NOC, the ministry no longer have control over the team and as such cannot make pronouncements on the team.
Though, he admitted that the choice of Mikel by the sports minister might have been informed by the pedigree and popularity of the player in the English Premiership, he maintained that the minister erred because the announcement is the business of the NOC.
“Mikel Obi is a known player all over the world and the minister may just have been banking on that with him being named captain of Team Nigeria. However, the approach of the minister in making the appointment was wrong because the NOC is in charge of the team now,” Nwosu maintained.
President Muhammadu Buhari, had on Tuesday, July 19 presided over the formal handing over of Team Nigeria ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games scheduled to begin August 5.
The President Buhari also received the honour of Grand Patron of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) by its president, Habu Gumel.
At a ceremony in the Statehouse that also had in attendance the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Solomon Dalung and FCT Minister Mohammed Bello, President Buhari received the Olympic flag from Dalung and then charged team Nigeria to do the country proud.
Also last week, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), released a 36-man team to represent the country at the Games, but its president, Solomon Ogba, disclosed that the country’s participation is in danger, owing to the limited funds that had so far hampered the preparations.
The House of Representatives, however, intervened by issuing a directive to the Federal Government for the immediate disbursement of funds to the team.
It warned of a repeat of the disaster at the London 2012 Games where the country failed to win a single medal.
Chelsea midfielder, Mikel Obi had been named captain of Team Nigeria to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which begins on August 5.
Forty-year-old table tennis star, Funke Oshonaike, who would be making her sixth appearance at the games after her debut appearance at Atlanta ’96, was named the assistant team captain.
Mikel, one of the three over-age players in the national U-23 football
team for the games, is making his debut appearance at the Olympic Games, after he missed being part of the football squad – which lost to Argentina in the final – at the Beijing 2008 Games.
Oshonaike was chosen because of their consistency, patriotism and dedication to national assignments.”
Nigeria’s Chef- de- Mission at the games, Christian Ohaa, said, “Mikel is a young, patriotic footballer of international status and we believe he will be a role model to the up-and-coming athletes while Oshonaike is experienced and is one of the oldest athletes in the team. We believe that their combined efforts will bring goodwill to Team Nigeria and project the country’s image positively to the world.”
Mikel is one of Nigeria’s most decorated footballers, having won the UEFA Champions League, Europa Cup, English Premier League, FA Cup at club level with Chelsea and the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations with the Super Eagles.
Meanwhile, Nigerians had reacted to the choice of Mikel as Nigeria’s captain at the Games.
“Let’s hope he’s cool-headed enough to control the team. He’s not too small or too young to be named captain.
I think it’s okay for Mikel since he is not the captain of the football team. He can focus on the entire team without much load from the football team,” sports journalist, Smarts Ebhodaghe said.
Former Super Eagles defender Abdul Sule stated, “I think Mikel was chosen because of his track record. He is playing for a big club like Chelsea and he’s won so many laurels as a sportsman. Even though this is his first appearance at the Olympics, I think it’s a good choice.”
Sports journalist, Colin Udoh said he would have preferred either multi-talented athlete, Blessing Okagbare, or veteran table tennis star, Segun Toriola, who would be attending his seventh Olympics in Rio, to lead the country at the global games.
He tweeted, “Happy for Mikel but I think it’s a poor decision by @ SolomonDalung and Sports Ministry. Segun Toriola (7th Olympics) is a much better choice. Toriola’s record of qualifying for seven Olympic Games is peerless and richly epitomises the Olympic spirit. Plus his leadership/experience
“Outside of Toriola, Blessing Okagbare also stands out as a better choice. This will be her third Olympics, and she has global recognition. Both Toriola and Okagbare have the respect of teammates and the international Olympic community. These are much better choices in my humble opinion I’m not sure how the decision was made, especially since this is not a strong Dream Team (football team) and they could be out by the group phase.”