SOCCER fans looking forward to seeing Chelsea star, John Obi Mikel, in Wednesday’s international friendly game against South Africa will have to make do without the midfielder as he has withdrawn from the match following some health concerns. But all the other stars invited for the game, tagged, Mandela Challenge, are available and ready to prove Nigeria’s superiority over the South Africans.
Super Eagles Head Coach, Stephen Okechukwu Keshi announced after the team’s training session on Monday that Mikel has withdrawn from the game due to a stomach upset he picked up while on tour with his EPL side.
According to Super Eagles Media Officer, Ben Alaiya, Chelsea doctors wrote to the NFF asking that the player be excused for health reasons. Keshi obliged and said yesterday morning in Durban that he would not want to push Mikel too much because of the September 7 World Cup qualifier against Malawi in Calabar.
Although Alaiya did not state, whom Keshi has picked to play Mikel’s role in the game, he revealed that all the other 19 players are already in Durban for the game, including Mikel’s Chelsea teammate, Victor Moses.
Keshi also on behalf of the team prayed for the soul of his late national teammate, Samson Sochukwuma Okwaraji, who died on August 12, 1989 during a World Cup qualifying game against Angola in Lagos, Alaiya said.
He disclosed that the weather in Durban has been playing games with the Eagles, saying, “in the mornings, its bright and warm, but by evening time it drops very low to about 18 degrees. But the players are used to such weather and don’t see it as a hindrance to their game against Bafana Bafana.”
Meanwhile, South African Coach, Gordon Igesund, warned Keshi that his wards were battle ready for the African champions when he exchanged warm pleasantries with the Nigerian gaffer at the Southern Sun Hotel, where the Bafana Bafana are camped.
Igesund is not alone in his optimism, as many South Africans believe they are eager to end Nigeria’s dominance over their teams at all levels, saying there could be no better time than now that the Super Eagles are African champions.