By Kayode Ogundare in Uyo:
Super Eagles captain Mikel Obi insists the fault for Nigeria’s inability to qualify for the 2017 African Cup of Nations should not be heaped on the shoulders of the players alone, Completesportsnigeria.com reports.
Mikel insists that it was a collective loss but that, rather than dwell on the past which cannot be reversed, the football community should forge ahead.
“The players alone are not responsible for our AFCON failure,” Mikel said at the team’s press conference here in Uyo ahead of Saturday’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Tanzania.
“The players are the ones we see on the pitch but there are a lot of preparations that go on behind the scenes. When these are not properly done, it will affect the output on the pitch. I’m not pointing fingers neither am I trading blame but we need to learn from the past so we can excel.”
The Chelsea of England star also rallied support for the team as well as newly-engaged Technical Adviser Gernot Rohr who will be in charge of his first competitive game on Saturday when the Eagles take on Tanzania at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo.
Mikel added: “It’s a new dawn. The beginning of a new era with a new team, a new coach and a new direction. If all of us can pull in one direction, I’m sure we can achieve great things. We have a coach who’s widely travelled and vastly experienced in African football. We should all support him and the team to succeed.”
Mikel was the arrowhead of Nigeria’s charge to an Olympic bronze medal at Rio 2016 and he has restated his determination to lead the Super Eagles through the qualifiers to the World Cup in Brazil.
“I’ve been to the World Cup and I know the feeling. I want to go again and I know the younger players also want to go. That’s the more reason why we should all pull in one direction,” he said.
On his being an inspiration to the younger players in the team, Mikel insists that getting into the team is only a means to an end, not the end itself.
“The younger players know that getting into the team is just the beginning. They know this is where the hardwork will begin. That’s always been my philosophy in the 11 years I’ve been in the Super Eagles and I hope the new boys will emulate that.”