When an­gry, Mikel would dis­ap­pear to play foot­ball – Tony Obi

Tony Obi is one of seven sib­lings of Nige­rian pro­fes­sional foot­baller John Mikel Obi. In this in­ter­view, the older brother of Nige­ria’s Su­per Ea­gles Cap­tain speaks of his brother’s love for alubo (a Nige­rian sta­ple food made from cas­sava flour), and how M

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - Lami Sadiq & Dick­son S. Adama, Jos

Daily Trust: What was your child­hood like with Mikel? Tony Obi: It was not re­ally easy for all of us be­cause we all grew up to­gether at 15 Pankshin Street op­po­site the Jos Town­ship Sta­dium. We grew up in a public com­pound where we oc­cu­pied two rooms with one shop in front of the com­pound. Our mum owned a bar and used to sell pep­per soup. DT: Did Mikel play a lot of foot­ball as a child? Tony: All of us did. We are a fam­ily of foot­ballers; I played ‘Greater to­mor­row’ while they were train­ing in Town­ship, we used to play foot­ball with friends from other streets and Mikel was the small­est among us. Some­times, we used to ask him to leave be­cause he was small and we were scared they might break his legs but he would cry and in­sist on play­ing. My im­me­di­ate younger brother, Ebere, also plays; he is now with Heart­land FC. Mikel al­ways used to force him­self to play with us and some­times we would pity him and let him play.

DT: Did your par­ents en­cour­age foot­ball or were they more con­cerned about his per­for­mance in school?

Tony: Our dad en­cour­aged all of us to play, he used to be a player him­self, he played for Gombe United or so. Mikel started from Igbo league and then to Plateau United while he was still in se­condary school. From there, they had a friendly match with the Un­der 17 Na­tional team here at the Jos town­ship sta­dium and he played very well. That night, one of the coaches came look­ing for him. I told him that my brother was sleep­ing but he asked me to wake him and my fa­ther. Later they gave him the ad­dress of the ho­tel they were stay­ing and in­vited him to join them. Even be­fore he joined Plateau United, my fa­ther en­cour­aged him. He how­ever told them to be care­ful with him so he doesn’t break his legs. DT: Mikel looks quiet, is that his per­son­al­ity or is it just for public ap­pear­ance? Tony: Yes, Mikel doesn’t talk much; he is re­ally DT: quiet Didn’t and hum­ble.that make him vul­ner­a­ble to bul­lies as a kid? Tony: As a child he didn’t talk much, we didn’t bully him but when he gets an­gry, he would only pick his boots and go to Town­ship or Bap­tist area to play foot­ball. We usu­ally go out to look for him and once you go to Town­ship or Bap­tist, you will find him there play­ing foot­ball. DT: What kind of a brother is he? Tony: He is a very good brother. He takes care of the en­tire fam­ily; he is the bread­win­ner. DT: What kind of a fa­ther is he? Tony: We haven’t seen him to­gether with the chil­dren yet, but he talks about them a lot. They will be com­ing home soon to­gether. DT: How of­ten do you get in touch? Tony: We com­mu­ni­cate but hardly see. Even when we call, we don’t im­me­di­ately get him be­cause of his busy sched­ule. It may take him a few days to call back. DT: What was his favourite food as a child? Tony: Pap and alubo (thick cas­sava flour pud­ding). He loved alubo so much be­cause as kids, we didn’t have money for semo so it was alubo we used to eat and he loved it so much. DT: What about now? Tony: Even the last time he came back home, he re­quested for alubo (laughed). DT: Can you share an in­ter­est­ing child­hood mem­ory with him?

Tony: Our dad in­structed that he should be the one to pre­pare alubo for the en­tire fam­ily and also wash plates be­cause he wasn’t do­ing any other house chores. He was so much into foot­ball. But Mikel will still go and play ball and for­get, so by the time he comes back in the evening around 7 or 8pm, an­other per­son would have pre­pared the alubo. Mum will flog him, but to­mor­row he will still do the same thing. DT: How does he re­lax? Tony: By lis­ten­ing to mu­sic. When he is not train­ing, you find him with an ear­piece lis­ten­ing to mu­sic, he loves to re­lax. DT: What are some of the places he loves to visit when he comes home? Tony: He usu­ally stays in Abuja where we go to meet him. It’s been a long time since he came to Jos. In fact, he hasn’t been to Jos since our dad was kid­napped a few years back, but he is plan­ning to come home soon. DT: What is the down­side of be­ing Mikel’s brother?

Tony: There are places I go to and I wouldn’t want peo­ple to know that we are re­lated. Once they know, if I want to buy some­thing, they will im­me­di­ately in­crease the price and when I com­plain they will say, ‘Are you not Mikel’s brother; Mikel has a lot of money’ so when it comes to that kind of sit­u­a­tion, I don’t like peo­ple know­ing that I am his brother.

DT: What is the up­side of be­ing his brother?

Tony: The ma­jor up­side has been the fame and re­spect that has rubbed off on us. When peo­ple see us, they re­spect us and it has been a plea­sure be­cause he has brought fame to the fam­ily. DT: Be­ing from a hum­ble back­ground and now with fame and money, has it changed him? Tony: No, no, his char­ac­ter has not changed; he is still hum­ble. Even his friends from Jos some­times visit him in Abuja when he is in the coun­try. DT: If he weren’t a foot­baller what else do you think he would have ex­celled in? Tony: His foot­ball tal­ent man­i­fested early in life and that over­shad­owed ev­ery­thing. I can­not imag­ine him do­ing any­thing other than foot­ball.

Tony Obi

Mikel Obi

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.