|Tony Obi, Mikel’s older brother|
Mr. Tony Obi, one of the seven siblings of Nigerian professional footballer John Mikel Obi, has revealed some of the memories he had with his younger brother, who is now the Nigeria’s Super Eagles Captain.
Speaking in an interview with Dailytrust, Mr Obi also revealed his brother’s love for alubo (a Nigerian staple food made from cassava flour), and how Mikel found refuge in football early in life.
According to him, “Growing up was not really easy for all of us because we all grew up together at 15 Pankshin Street opposite the Jos Township Stadium. We grew up in a public compound where we occupied two rooms with one shop in front of the compound. Our mum owned a bar and used to sell pepper soup.
“We are a family of footballers; I played ‘Greater tomorrow’ while they were training in Township, we used to play football with friends from other streets and Mikel was the smallest among us. Sometimes, we used to ask him to leave because he was small and we were scared they might break his legs but he would cry and insist on playing. My immediate younger brother, Ebere, also plays; he is now with Heartland FC. Mikel always used to force himself to play with us and sometimes we would pity him and let him play.
“Our dad encouraged all of us to play, he used to be a player himself, he played for Gombe United or so. Mikel started from Igbo league and then to Plateau United while he was still in secondary school. From there, they had a friendly match with the Under 17 National team here at the Jos township stadium and he played very well. That night, one of the coaches came looking for him.
“I told him that my brother was sleeping but he asked me to wake him and my father. Later they gave him the address of the hotel they were staying and invited him to join them. Even before he joined Plateau United, my father encouraged him. He however told them to be careful with him so he doesn’t break his legs.
Mikel’s Humbleness and Love For Football
“As a child, Mikel didn’t talk much, when he gets angry, he would only pick his boots and go to Township or Baptist area to play football. We usually go out to look for him and once you go to Township or Baptist, you will find him there playing football.
“He was so much into football. He will go and play ball and forget about house chores, by the time he comes back in the evening around 7 or 8pm, another person would have done all the chores. Mum will flog him, but tomorrow he will still do the same thing.
“Mikel’s football talent manifested early in life and that overshadowed everything. I cannot imagine him doing anything other than football, Mr Tony told Dailytrust.
He added that Mikel, while growing up loved to eat Pap and alubo (thick cassava flour pudding).
“He loved alubo so much because as kids, we didn’t have money for semo so it was alubo we used to eat and he loved it so much. Even the last time he came back home, he requested for alubo, Mr Obi revealed.
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