Chelsea midfielder Mikel Obi has 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 will 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 turned down the opportunity to be part of the football squad – which lost to Argentina in the final – at the Beijing 2008 Games.
According to a statement by the Media Assistant to the Minister of Sports, Nneka Anibeze, “Mikel and Oshonaike were 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.
Oshonaike won gold in the table tennis team event at the 2007 All Africa Games before scooping four silver at the next edition of the games in Maputo.
Meanwhile, Nigerians have reacted over 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 will 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.”
The football team are expected to depart for Rio from Atlanta, United States, on Friday while other athletes including the table tennis team will leave in batches same day.