The last is yet to be heard of Nigeria’s chaotic preparations for Rio 2016 as team captain, Mikel Obi has revealed just how much he was involved behind the scenes. Speaking with goal.com
the Chelsea midfielder said:
“I think if we talk about the money that I put into the team I think it was more than [£30,000] but we just had to do it.
“I said to myself, ‘I won’t let this happen. If I can help, I’ll try to help’. Sometimes there was no food, sometimes there was no pitch to train on, there was no bus to go to the training ground. So all of this was what me and the coach had to figure out, and get money together.
“I came to the camp. I sat down with the boys in Atlanta and I could see the frustration, the pain and the anger. Their aim was to play in the Olympics, their goal was to play in the Olympics.
“And for me being there and seeing what they are going through, they are young boys, they want to start their career and someone in the ministry is trying to crush that dream.”
On the now infamous incident which saw the team arrive Rio with just hours to spare after haphazard travel arrangements he said: “There was just no flight provided by the Nigerian ministry. “We planned to leave three or four days before the tournament, but we ended up leaving the day of our first game. It was a difficult one. I don’t think I have ever seen something like that before, it was crazy.
“[After our last minute flight] we got to the hotel, dropped our bags, grabbed some sandwiches, something to eat. A little bit of food. Then headed straight back to the stadium because we hadn’t even done our accreditations then, so we had to go there and wait in the line, do our accreditation.
“It was absolutely hectic. I don’t know how we managed to go onto the pitch and win that game, it was absolutely mind blowing.”
He also spoke of his pride at winning bronze, Nigeria’s only medal at the competition.
“Sometimes I wear my medal around the house, it gets my missus jealous,” he joked as he showed off his medal. “The kids love playing with the medal. I am sure one day they will know what this really means.”
Still on the problems the team faced en route Olympic glory he said: “We had lots of problems outside the pitch, but I always told the boys that you shouldn’t let that affect what we came here to do. We still want to achieve what we came here to do. We still have to represent our country and play for ourselves and our family and the people of Nigeria.
“So if the ministry don’t want to take responsibility, we have to make sure we play for ourselves and our country. The boys understand that and we made sure they went along with my message that I kept putting across to them every single day and we managed to achieve what we did achieve.”