Friday, September 21, 2018
Add this page to Blinklist Add this page to Del.icoi.us Add this page to Digg Add this page to Facebook Add this page to Furl Add this page to Google Add this page to Ma.Gnolia Add this page to Newsvine Add this page to Reddit Add this page to StumbleUpon Add this page to Technorati Add this page to Yahoo


ideas have consequences

You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>Mikel Obi love letter to Naija: Nigeria Is Not Here to Have Fun
Tuesday, 26 June 2018 14:22

Mikel Obi love letter to Naija: Nigeria Is Not Here to Have Fun

Written by Administrator
Mikel  Obi Mikel Obi Sam Robles/The Players' Tribune

 

I know what you’re thinking.


So before I tell you my story, let’s just get that bit out of the way first. It’s been more than a decade and I still get asked

this one thing about my time in England.


“Hey, what happened to you signing for Manchester United? How come you swapped for Chelsea at the last minute? ”


Every time.
Well, my Dad wasn’t too pleased about what happened either. He wanted me to go to Manchester United because he

loved Alex Ferguson. Back home in Nigeria, a lot of people were saying I should go to United because of how well they

work with young players, whereas Chelsea just bought superstars.



And it’s true, I was only 18 years old and Chelsea had players like Lampard, Ballack and Makélélé in midfield. A lot of

people in Nigeria doubted that I could even make the Chelsea team if I went there.



So … why did I turn down the biggest club in the world?


I’ll tell you what happened. I had all these people on both sides fighting over me. Agents, managers, strangers,

guys handing me papers. I had Sir Alex Ferguson calling me on the phone on one side. And I had Roman

Abramovich on the other side, putting me up in London, hiding me somewhere where only a few people knew

where I was. It was really confusing, and I was a kid, you know?




After a while, someone from FIFA gave me a phone call. They said, “Listen, we know you’re young and you

have these two clubs fighting over you. We can’t decide for you. You can only go where you want. You have to tell us.”

I thought about it for a long time. It was the biggest decision of my life.

You know what made my mind up? Chelsea had signed three other players from Nigeria along with me. They

were staying with me at the house in London to keep me company. These guys …  their lives depended on the

decision I was making. If I went to United, they were gone. If I went to Chelsea, they were going to have a

career. No matter how long it lasted, that was important to me. Just to give them a chance, you know?

I chose Chelsea, and four lives changed that day.

No one thought that I’d end up lasting there for 11 years. No one thought I would play in so many games or win as many

trophies as I did. That’s one thing a lot of people in Nigeria respect me for — I don’t chicken out. You can say whatever you want

about me, but all these managers came and went at Chelsea and they looked at all the superstars ahead of me, and I didn’t

chicken out. I survived. That mentality goes all the way back to my childhood in Jos, Nigeria.

When I was a kid, I didn’t have shoes, let alone football boots. But I would always be out in the street every morning, playing

barefoot with hardly any clothes on. That’s how badly I wanted to be Kanu.


When I was a kid, Kanu was the man. Nwankwo Kanu and Jay-Jay Okocha, they were the footballing kings of Nigeria. I wanted to be them. There’s this image I have in my mind of me and my friends running around trying to find a TV so we could watch Kanu play for Arsenal. Back then, sometimes the electricity would go off for like a week, and you’d have to go around town searching for a coffee shop or a beer parlour or some place that had a generator. Every Saturday at 3 p.m., they always showed the Premier League, and Nigerians love Arsenal, so it was usually Arsenal on TV.



We’d watch Kanu do his thing on the pitch and then we’d go out into the streets after the game and try to imitate whatever move or trick he did.

But the dream is the dream. What I mean by that is … Well, being Kanu takes so much more than daydreaming. It takes work and sacrifice. And sometimes it takes people who are willing to help you. I remember when I was little, there were tournaments where you had to play in boots. That was the rule. But I didn’t have boots. My family had money to send me to school, but not enough for the football stuff. So this guy in our town, Mabao, he had a little bit of money, and he used to buy me and some other kids boots and clothes so we could play in the tournaments.

Without him, and without my parents, I wouldn’t be where I am.

Somehow something clicked for me when I was 12, when I was playing for the Pepsi Football Academy. We were playing against a side called Plateau United. You see, in Jos, Plateau United was the team.


They were the government team — the big boys with money. If you wanted to be the next Kanu, you had to play for Plateau United. So you know what I do in the under-13 state tournament against Jos? I work my butt off and end up changing someone’s mind. After the match, Plateau came to my house and told my mother that they wanted sign me. And my mum was like, “What? He’s still in school! You know how old he is? Why do you want to sign him? He’s going to play with grandpas?!”

My mum always called the bigger, richer kids grandpas.

 

 

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 26 June 2018 14:32

Add comment