Nigeria’s build-up to their African Nations Cup clash with Bafana Bafana later this month has been hit by accusations and denials over the make-up of coach Gernot Rohr’s squad for the fixture at FNB Stadium.
There is usually much debate around the Super Eagles squad‚ but the continued absence of talisman and skipper John Mikel Obi has set tongues wagging‚ while another star man‚ Ogenyi Onazi‚ had been accused of faking injury.
Rohr confirmed that he had called on veteran Mikel Obi for the fixture against Bafana‚ where the Super Eagles need just a point to book their place at the finals in Cameroon next June-July‚ but had been turned down by the player.
Mikel Obi says he still has “fitness issues” by way of explanation‚ yet he has played the full 90 minutes‚ and even scored‚ in the last two games for his Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda‚ the latest on Sunday.
Tianjin have just three games left in the season and are only above the relegation zone on goal-difference‚ with the suggestion that Mikel Obi has chosen to help his well-paying club‚ rather than his country‚ in the coming weeks.
The former Chelsea star has hit back though‚ saying nothing could be further from the truth.
“My commitment to the national team remains 100 percent. I still remain a part of the team and will always support the lads‚” he was quoted by New Telegraph.
“The Nations Cup remains our ultimate goal for now and we are just one point away from reaching that target.
“I’m still not ready to come back yet‚ I still have some physical and fitness issues. I wish the team well and will always do.”
Meanwhile‚ Onazi has furiously denied that he faked injury in the last camp for the qualifiers against Libya after he left early and was not called up for the game against South Africa.
Onazi has also continued playing for his Turkish side Trabzonspor‚ with his previous game on Saturday when he completed the full 90 minutes.
He is said to be upset at having not played any minutes for Nigeria at the World Cup in Russia‚ and appeared to confirm this when speaking to the Turkish media following his latest snub.
“I’ll show my quality and talents to those who didn’t give me the chance to play in the World Cup‚” he said‚ lashing out at those who suggested he had faked injury in order to skip the camp.
“Why would I fake an injury‚ I was injured in training and had to rest the leg‚” he was quoted by legit.ng.
“I am a professional player with 100 percent dedication to my job. I have played for this country with injury before and I deserve some respect.”
Bafana host Nigeria on November 17 where a victory for South Africa would seal their place at the Nations Cup finals in Cameroon.