Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Could John Obi Mikel's bravery over coronavirus spell the end of his football career?

The former Nigeria captain condemned the ongoing Turkish Super Lig, and could pay a bigger price than the termination of his Trabzonspor contract
For better or worse, John Mikel Obi has always been highly opinionated.

It is the quality that made him such a good captain for the Nigeria national team for many years, and endeared him to the fans. It also, at various points, led to an uneasy relationship with the Nigeria Football Federation; his propensity to speak his mind and stand on principle came to be regarded as evidence of a lack of respect within a very gerontocratic culture.

This time, almost a year removed from his international retirement, he is once again suffering personal injury for speaking out in the face of administrative recklessness. This time, it is from club Trabzonspor, who took offence at his latest comments decrying the lack of sensitivity of the Turkish football authorities.

The backstory centres on the coronavirus, which the WHO has now labelled a pandemic, prompting leagues all over Europe to shut down.

High-profile personalities, including coaches (Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, for instance, was one of the first in the Premier League to test positive) and players alike (Callum Hudson-Odoi in England, Blaise Matuidi and Daniele Rugani in Italy, 35 per cent of the Valencia squad, several members of the Sampdoria squad, you could go on and on) have been hit by the virus, prompting the suspension of play altogether.

However, the Turkish Super Lig has ploughed on undeterred, initially bent on having fans in the stands before making a token concession and electing to play behind closed doors.


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