Super Eagles midfielder, Ogenyi Onazi has quashed the age-long rumours of his feud with former Nigerian captain, Mikel Obi.
There were rumours about both players having a clash in the national team camp ahead of the 2018 World Cup. I had an Instagram live conversation with the former Lazio midfielder and I asked him to clear the air on the story.
During your pre-world cup, Rusia 2018 camping in Austria, something happened, there was a strife between you and the then captain, John Obi Mikel. Is it something you like to talk about?
“I already spoke about it in my last interview as well. I think it all came out after the pre-world cup friendly game against England, there was an interview I granted, I think it was Colin Udoh who made that interview and he was asking me what really happened in the game and all that.
“I remember vividly I said in the game, some of us were running and some of us were not. I didn’t call any particular name and within myself, I knew the person who was not running and it was not related to the captain at all, because the captain and I were together in the midfield and doing everything together.
“At that point, we were going to the World Cup, everyone was trying to find a way, some people wanted to cause a problem in the camp, I don’t know but that’s their business. That was where the issue started from, I don’t know where they got all those things coming out from. So when I spoke to Mikel, I said “Skippo, see wetin dey happen” meaning see what is happening. He laughed and he said
“These are people who are looking for distractions” I don’t know if it was him who made the story or it was not him but I’m not God but from all indications, he said he doesn’t even know what is happening.”
But honestly, what’s your relationship with Mikel like, because I heard or sensed, It was tensed, I noticed the atmosphere in the camp then. Tell us about your relationship with Mikel before Trabzonspur and how did Trabzons solidify it.?
“In a nutshell, Mikel is not my mate, Like I said at the start of our conversation. I was inspired by Him Mikel when he travelled out of Jos to Lagos and then to Europe. That gave me the courage to also push for my dreams. He’s someone who I see like this (raising his hands high), his inspiration made me what I am today. Let me break it down. While Mikel was in Chelsea, he came back home to Nigeria, he gave me his jersey, his short, his football boot, he gave me money while I was still in Jos. There’s no room to have any issue with him, I’m not in his level.”
This is the height of humility bro.
“Let me even tell you, before my wedding, he called me on the phone and said “bro you want to wed, I support you with this” I cut in. don’t mention the amount, I know what Mikel can do. This is the level where he is, so some people who are trying to bring some things from it, it doesn’t exist. Mikel has achieved what if I reach the level I’d say God thank you, it’s okay for me. I cut in again, I think my respect for you has skyrocketed. Whatever he has in his mind I don’t know, this is my opinion. He’s somebody who it’s a privilege to play along with. When my president at Trabzonspor mentioned his name, I had goosebumps and said let’s do it now.
“He was coming to play in my position nonetheless, I was so excited to have him join us, I’m telling you from my whole heart, this is how I feel. “That’s brotherly love,” I said. I told my teammates that when he (Mikel) comes to the club, I want to play with him, the same way we play in the Super Eagles. Even one of my teammates, Abdulkadir Parmak heard Mikel was coming and he said jokingly, Onazi what kind of nonsense is this? You don’t bring another midfielder to remove us from the team, I then told him don’t worry, you’d play from the flank, all of us would do a tiki-taka together
Nobody would have thought of what you’re saying now, I think the media created a picture of you and Mikel going at each other.
“What I want to ask is that they should tell me on what ground can i have any form of a quarrel with Mikel?
Two big Super Eagles player maybe?
“Which big Super Eagles player, where I big reach? When Mikel was playing, I was watching him on TV at the U20 World Cup.
I don’t mean in size bro, you are small in size I know but big in achievements as a footballer (laughs)
Onazi laughs profusely and continues…
“In Jos when they were playing U20 if you see how we were celebrating for them. When it got to the shoot out, he doesn’t like to play penalties, at that point he was tying his shoelace while the referee was telling him to hurry up, all of us were panicking, the penalty was somehow but the ball entered, every one of us shouted. Bro, I have no chance to disrespect him, these are things I don’t say to people, I don’t talk too much about it because I respect you, and it is a medium to bring this out. Mikel is not my mate on any level.
“Anyone who knows Mikel, he’s someone who’s always reserved, he doesn’t speak too much.
Mikel can sit in front of you and not look at your face
“This is his lifestyle but I’m just letting you know the level of respect I have for Mikel, his part is different and what journalists are writing is different but I’m saying it to you, from today till tomorrow, next year and on, there’s no chance for me to have any problem with Mikel because he’s not my mate in any area, it’s just a privilege for me to play with him.”
That guy Mikel became your teammate at Trabzonspor after the AFCON…
“You can imagine, before he came to Trabzonspor, the president contacted me because the president of Trabzonspor and I are good friends. Before he signed Tony (Nwakaeme), he spoke to me, he said “look I want to sign this player, what do you think?” and I said he’s my national team player, he’s very good if you sign this guy you’re going to say thank you to me and now they have even given him a new contract.
“The day he was to sign, I was called to come to the table, I had a match in Istanbul. He didn’t even give me a commission (laughs), that’s the worst part about it. I came there and he said these people they’re talking about some money, extra money, do you think I should do this thing? I said, do this thing and close your mind, you’d say thank you to me. When it came to Mikel, they already sent someone to Egypt to talk to him, I wasn’t even allowed to sleep that night because i was inundated with calls from both the club and Mikel. I was not in Egypt, I was in Trabzon. So Mikel called me to say ‘o boy how far, how is it in Trabzon? I said skippo no worry everything dey okay. Your money is guaranteed, don’t worry, agree with them, we’d even find a good house for you here before you arrive, he asked different questions which I answered. If there’s anything bad I’ll tell you. Then Mikel didn’t sign, he gave them another two days, then the president called me again, he said can you just talk to him and convince him and I told him I’m not the agent. It’s not as if you want to give me a commission, he has an agent.
“I spoke to Mikel for almost an hour, he talked a lot and he promised me he’d sign the following morning, (he was presented while in Egypt) the next day he signed and came, I was really happy he came. Bro, if I don’t want Mikel to come to Trabzon, I would not put in words for him, even Tony.
Thank you for clearing the air on this Mikel Onazi controversy. In quote now because it’s clear it was a making of the media.
Now let’s talk about Trabzons, how did you guys play because you and Mikel in the Super Eagles, you created a fantastic partnership. How did it go at Trabzonsonspor?
“Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to play with Mikel because the coach refused to play me, not because he preferred Mikel but I don’t know why he refused to feature me. But I played with him during the preseason, not official games.”
What was the relationship like off the field, did you hang out? Go to each other’s house?
“As I told you, Mikel is not someone I’d just call on the phone and say “skippo, where you dey, make we hang out, it’s not possible.” The respect is there, unless Mikel call me. Tony and I even tease that him that after showing him the city, he couldn’t just call us to come relax, buy us barbecue, coke or fanta and he’d say “guys allow me na, you know say I like to dey sleep” we used to push him but he’s the kind of person that likes to be in his close corner, that’s his lifestyle.
“Sometimes we’d call him when hanging out and he’d always ask if we’d still be there in about 30minutes. We never even had time because after training you’d want to create time for personal things and also rest. On the pitch, we played together but never had an official game which I’d have loved but it didn’t happen.”
Talk about how Mikel left that club, you know there are always stories in the media but you were there and have a first-hand knowledge of what went down. Please tell us what truly transpired behind the scenes.
“There is nothing to hide about, it’s all about this pandemic, when it started it was too risky. Mikel thought the league should have been suspended. I think maybe the choice of words he used when he was making those statements were what got the fans and management enraged.
“Trabzonspor was looking to win the championship and he said they should cancel the league meaning it’s void. For me, I thought it’s something that Trabzonspor should have understood, it was just a matter of choice of words, not the intention. This is just it. But he didn’t mean that much and as at that point, the fans then thought England then was at more risk than Turkey and was quite incoprehensible why a player would want to leave Turkey for England. Anger was just flying from different angles and as you know, Trabzonspor fans, their hands on the keypad is very fast. It was not an issue at all.”
Did you talk to him when those were happening? Like advice
“No, he’s my chairman na, I cannot call him. He has his reasons and the truth is when you send Mikel message, he reads it after about 6-7days.