John Obi Mikel
Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel turned down a chance to return to the Super Eagles set up to instead focus on Middlesbrough’s bid for promotion from the EFL Championship.
The former Chelsea man has been recharging his batteries in order to give 100 percent in Boro’s drive to return to the Premier League, starting with their clash against league leaders Norwich City this coming weekend.
Hence he decided against the chance to play for Nigeria in their matches this past week, a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the Seychelles and a friendly with North African giants Egypt.
The 31-year-old has not played for Nigeria since the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but remains part of manager Gernot Rohr’s plans as the German prepares his charges for the 2019 AFCON in June and July.
Rohr said: “He has so many games in Middlesbrough to look forward to, they are fighting for the play-offs too.
“He told me it is not the moment to return but if Obi Mikel is very fit again and has the motivation, then the door is open.
“I am not like Joachim Low who announced that three of his players are definitely out of the German national team, I never say that because you never know what can happen.
“We are watching and will see if he can come back. We also need experience in our team, we have so many young players.”
Two 14 year-olds – Serena Teluwo from Lagos and Chidinma Ezeh from Anambra – who are stepping up to play in the 16 age group showed outstanding skill and promise yesterday in their second round-robin match against the second and third seeds respectively at the Chevron Junior Tennis Invitational Masters taking place at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club.
Teluwo, who blew a 7-2 lead against Peace Obabori in her first round-robin match eventually losing 8-9, came back really focused and determined against Omolade Aderemi, the second seed in the Girls 16 but still went down 6-9 in the pro-set match.
Ezeh also pushed the third seed, Favour Moses from Kaduna, hard. The emerging star from Onitsha broke the hard-hitting Moses twice at the beginning but failed to convert her game points to consolidate her lead. Her opponent eventually found her range to win the match 9-5.
In other round-robin matches, the number one seed in the Boys 16s, Seun ‘Nadal’ Ogunsakin, has one leg in the semifinals with easy victories over Mohamed Idris of Abuja 9-2 and Praise Ikueba of Rivers State 9-3. The second seed, Precious Ikueba, twin brother of Praise, is also on course for the semifinals with hard-fought wins against Emmanuel Ameh of Lagos 9-5 and Lucky Danjuma of Abuja 9-6.
The round-robin matches are expected to be completed today with semifinal matches tomorrow, while the grand finale holds Sunday.
The Chevron Junior Tennis Invitational Masters which is taking place at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Race Course is being organised by the International Tennis Academy.