Elder brother to Super Eagles ace midfielder John Obi Mikel, Ebere Obi speaks to our correspondent on how the Chelsea top star’s high profile has caged his career with most people always comparing them and seeing him as struggling. Excerpt…
How will you describe your performance last season vis-à-vis your club’s position on the log?
Well I can’t be speaking for myself. May be the coaches and my colleagues should be in a better position to assess my performance. But the set target of the club was not met at the end of the season. That is most unfortunate. We had our plans well cut out but in the end we could not achieve them. May be we should take solace in the fact that we are still in the elite League. Next season surely will be better hopefully.
But most senior players in your team are moving to other clubs, won’t this affect your team?
That is football for you. Players will move and others will stay. It is not peculiar with our team. It is the nature of the game. Hopefully the management will recruit players to fill in the gap created by those leaving and we will continue from where we stopped last season.
Are you staying behind?
No comment on that. This is a big club that and it is difficult to say you are leaving. However you never can tell because football is a game of chance. If you ask me, I think I like this club.
You have been around for some time, are you not worried about the fact that you have not been called up to the Super Eagles like your other colleagues?
There is no hurry in life. Every player has his time. The coach knows what he wants and those he feels fits into his plans. To answer your question directly, I am not worried.
But what will you attribute it to?
I don’t know. I am doing my best. May be it is not good enough. But I will keep doing my best. But sincerely I should think that many people particularly coaches look at me from the perspective of my being brother to Mikel. Therefore they often want to compare me with him and also rate me with him. That is very wrong. In fact some people even think that I am riding on the crest of his (Mikel’s) success. May be my greatest undoing is that I am Mikel’s brother. No one wants to see me or look at me on account of my personal performance or efforts. They always assume I am getting support and assistance from my younger brother. It is really laughable and most unfortunate. But I have come to live with it. At some point it makes me angry but now I am used to it. I was captain of Enugu Rangers not on account of Mikel’s assistance but my individual performance and when I left the club I have tried to keep my game high and my head low, doing my thing.
What is your take on the home-based Eagles?
They have been assembled purely on merit and kudos must go to the coach.
Do you think the team can win CHAN?
Sure. I am convinced because they have been exposed to big time games and the coach is a father figure to all of us playing in the local League. They will want to win for us and indeed the coach who has been the source of motivation for the team and the players individually.
Any regrets not being part of the team?
No regrets whatsoever. I am not God. Most of the guys in the team are my friends and naturally I should pray for their success because if they succeed we all did.
You once traveled abroad and returned, are still hoping to take your game abroad?
Goalkeepers are not often in high demand in Europe. On field players are. Yes, I have been in Europe more than once but things did not work out. I hope to land a deal in Europe someday but I ma not desperate about it since I know that goalkeepers don’t get offers easily.
How helpful has Mikel been to your career?
You are talking about my brother here. He naturally has been helpful. The few times I travelled abroad were facilitated by his contacts. Since he is playing at the highest level in the game, he has better knowledge and experience to share with me.
Do you feel challenged by his status?
Naturally yes. As a younger sibling playing at the topmost level of the game, you want to also step up your performance to get closer to his status if you can’t catch him (laughs).
Do you think you can catch him?
(Laughs) Only God can speak on that. You know he is on top of the world at the moment.
He is at the verge of winning the Glo/CAF African Footballer of the Year award, what does this mean to you?
It means he (Mikel) is increasing the gap between him and those of us aspiring to be like him. It means he is doing us proud. It means he is fully fulfilling his calling as a footballer. It means greater challenges to him because uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. It means he has to keep going stronger, tougher and better.
What are your future plans?
I will keep doing my best and praying and hoping to get a call up to the national team. And may be from there I should get offers abroad.
What do you think about Eagles World Cup group opponents, talking about Iran, Bosnia and Argentina?
It won’t be easy but with hard word, Eagles should be able to go pass Iran and Bosnia. As for Argentina who are our old customers, if they take us from granted they would be shocked but if they up their game and play their usual style with the experience they have at the world stage then, we may settle for a second place in our group. But I am sure Eagles will qualify from that group. After that only God knows what will happen next.
Thanks for your time
The pleasure is always mine.