I read that the senior players of the Super Eagles precisely captain John Obi Mikel and his deputy Ogenyi Onazi are at daggersdrawn and “avoiding themselves”. The story suggest that Onazi is not comfortable with the “way Mikel is running his affairs as captain”. Both players are keeping each other at arm’s length. Ahmed Musa has reportedly teamed up with Onazi and his sympathisers to form their own faction made up of players who think Mikel is making them feel inferior and unwanted.
Private investigation after reading the story also reveal that Mikel has also been accused of influencing team selection, a claim Gernot Rohr sneezed at. In Mikel’s group are the two first choice central defenders William Troost-Ekong and Leon Balogun. Joel Obi who is said to be one of the reasons why the Onazi group is waging war among others. It is believed that Mikel prefers Joel to play in front of him and Winifred Ndidi in the middle.
Recall that Mikel and Onazi had a bust up prior to the game against Czech Republic following Onazi’s not too impressive showing against England in Wembley. This was Onazi’s response on the bust up after the England game when he was asked.
“It’s ridiculous to read that I don’t take orders from him (Mikel),” Onazi told CSN.
“He’s an outstanding individual and it hurts that this could be out there without verification.
“I relate well with Mikel, he is our captain and our leader.
“We all grew up together in Jos and he’s someone I have looked up to since I started my career. I get along with him and he has been helpful encouraging me after the criticism I received after the England game.
“We are here to do our country proud and to achieve that we must improve on our performances,” he added.
NFF topguns are denying this story. They even said it is a distraction to the build up to the World Cup. They appealed for caution as such stories could have a telling effect on the team’s moral.
“This story is false. I am not aware of this development”, begins an NFF official who wants to remain anonymous.
“Every team has its differences., even Brazil and world champions, Germany. But you hardly hear them especially at this stage. We will appeal to the media to be cautious and help the team with positive reports. However, we will look into this claim and try to resolve whatever differences exit before our first game.
If the issue of bonus and allowance which is germane has been taken care of, I really wonder where this is coming from.
A player of the team however said, “There are clear signs that friction exist in the squad and it is among the senior players. I just hope they do something about it before, it takes a different and ugly dimension.”
This crisis is needless, not after the team through captain Mikel has promised President Muhammadu Buhari of the trophy. The NFF must step in now. Mikel must be told that a General is as good as his troop. He needs to carry all along. Onazi must appreciate the fact that there can’t be two captains in a boat. He should not go on ego trip to break the team. He should “close ranks” and join forces with his captain for a better tournament.
The senior players should understand that it is not all about them but about Nigeria. The World Cup is about Nigeria and not any individual. The players must be told that there were players before them and there will be players after them. Many cry for the privilege of representing Nigeria and playing at the World Cup, therefore, those in Eagles camp in Austria are just privileged and divinely picked.
On its part, the NFF should know that settling bonus and allowance issue is not the ultimate as proven by this case. Super Eagles are like their country, Nigeria with stunning peculiarity and burning issues that come up with each passing day.
Eagles, I maintain that you’re condemned to reach the semis in Russia. No excuses!
By Desmond Ekwueme