Super Eagles’ Captain, John Obi Mikel was the youngest player when he joined the national team in 2006. That was when the Super Eagles were peopled by such luminaries as Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Obinna Nsofor, Christian Obodo, John Utaka, Joseph Yobo, Taiye Taiwo, Wilson Oruma, Isaac Okoronkwo, Obinna Nwaneri, Obafemi Martins and Yakubu Aiyegbeni.
Today, as the captain of the team, he is one of the oldest of a squad with an average age of 22 and he is thrilled by the bright future ahead of the country. Speaking at the Yaoundé International Airport while waiting for the Super Eagles’ flight back to Abuja after Nigeria’s 1-1 draw with Cameroun, Mikel said the quality of young stars available for the national team, can only bode well for the future.
“When I started playing for the team, I was mentored by some veterans who were on the last leg of their career. But now, it is different. Most of the players in this squad will still be there for a long time to come,” he said.
Mikel was away from the game for six months owing to an in jury he copped while playing for his Chinese club, Tianjin Teda, and he says he is gradually finding his way back to full fitness.
“I was substituted in the two games against Cameroun because I am not yet 100 per cent fit. It will take some time, but I will get back to my normal level.“I am only 30, so I still have many more years to play,” he added.
Mikel is not the only member of the Nigerian football family thrilled by the number of quality young stars available for the Super Eagles. Nigeria Football Federation President (NFF), Amaju Pinnick also feels that the country is on the verge of once again becoming a great football country due to the number of emerging talents the Super Eagles can count on.
“You take a first look at the team and you see players like William Ekong, Wilfred Ndidi, Leon Balogun, Alex Iwobi, Chidozie Awaziem, Tyronne Ebuehi, Kelechi Iheanacho and now we have Ola Aina as well. We are working on getting Tammy Abraham. There are others like Henry Onyekuru and Olanrewaju Kayode. I believe we are so blessed and that this team will cause a big stir in Russia, and if not in Russia, in Qatar in five years time,” he enthused.
Pinnick expressed confidence that the Eagles would wrap up the World Cup ticket when they host Zambia in Uyo next month.‘’This was the toughest World Cup qualifying group in Africa and the Super Eagles have been excellent,’’ Pinnick said.He added: “I praise them for their efforts since the qualifying campaign started and I want them to go for the three points against Zambia so that we wrap up the ticket quickly without further delay.
“Everyone called it the Group of Death, but we are alive to tell the story and a very good story at that. We await Zambia and I believe the sweet story will be completed in great style.”