Opinion: Mikel Obi, Jealous tantrums, and other stories

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Let me make it clear that if it is about winning the argument, I don't think it is going to be possible to have a fruitful conversation around the topic at hand.

But if it is about educating, interrogating the issues, and objectively sharing of our perspective, I think we can make headway.

As a background to this article, an interview was recently granted by Super Eagles of Nigeria's Captain Mikel Obi. And it has been trending because it threw up some Opata.

In the said interview, Mikel addressed a number of questions surrounding his career.

He also talked about the chances of the Super Eagles in Egypt which he described as bright.

Comparing this team to the team that won the same cup in 2013 which he was a part of, the Middleborough of England’s defender said the 2013 team has a lot of experience whereas this present team is a mix of experience and youth. 

He also hinted about an imminent retirement from international football, and his plans to become a businessman rather than take to coaching.

He admits, however, that his Russian wife has been encouraging him towards getting a coaching license. But he doubts strongly if he would be a good coach.

However, the flash-point for most people during the interview was when he hit out at critics who are largely ex-internationals/coaches, and pundits who had criticized him at different times in the past of being jealous of his achievement.

As expected, it has become a subject of intense conversation around the country.

Specifically, Mikel was criticized by ex-international J.J Okocha for not doing enough as Nigeria's creative midfielder at the global football showpiece in Russia last year.

And it would also be recalled that even his Coach at the under 20-level Samson Siasia once hinted that anybody who makes an attempt as to criticize Mikel must be prepared for a fight.

Obviously, these comments have not gone down well with Mikel who was making a return to the Super Eagles as the team continues their preparation towards the nation’s cup coming up in Egypt after a year lacunae.

Before I continue, let me quickly take a look at the word criticism. Criticism is the art of carefully breaking down of concept, model, product, performance, ideas, names it with a view to extracting or, distilling their qualities, their different part or, features advantages, and disadvantages.

Therefore, it can be safely said that criticism is not a bad thing in itself especially if done objectively and with a deep sense of responsibility.

But criticism sometimes can be hard to stomach if it only highlights the flaws in the something or, somebody without balancing it with praises where it is deserving.

Who and what is open to criticism?

A thing or person is open to criticism provided they are in the public domain in terms of representation, service, and the likes. Clearly, politicians, musicians, actors, sportsmen, and women to name a few falls into this category.

Sources of criticism?

Criticism can be self-generated or, from the third party who are consumers of what is on offer. However, criticism when it is self-generated can either be deceptive or, grossly inadequate because objectivity may be lacking.

Therefore, it is best when it comes from outsiders who are professional assessors who want you to be the best you can possibly be.

So, the opinions of the likes of Mikel Obi do not count concerning who gets to criticize them because they are more less a public property.

As a footballer which Mikel is, fans and analysts alike are bound to make critical comments on their performance, especially if it falls below par, and shower them accolades if its top notch.

The interesting thing is these fans and analysts can be drawn from among your fellow countrymen and foreigners alike.

Criticisms in most cases are made to get the best out things so that those who design them will know which areas to improve upon.

Criticism is the tonic professionals need to excel and to go beyond mediocrity, and only in few instances are they made to make others feel bad.

But the moment professionals begin to select who should and shouldn't criticize them then, there must be a character problem somewhere.

Mikel seems to have forgotten that those whom he’s accusing of criticizing him now were once in his shoes and were not spared.

In fact, they played times without number right before the Lagos fans which today remains the most critical football fans in Nigeria.

And they excelled, unlike the present crops that have buckled under vociferously demanding Lagos football supporters. Is that not the reason why Super Eagles' matches were moved elsewhere?

Okocha for instances was severely criticized during his playing days for either being too selfish with the ball or, playing to the gallery even by teammates.

These are fact and not made up accusations from the imagination of ardent football fans and critics alike because they were jealous of him.

This was given more prominence by Oliseh when he spoke at the recognition accorded the 90s generation by the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) a few months back.

So, if Okocha criticizes him for not doing enough as a creative midfielder, I believe he simply wants him to give his best and not the contrary.
Besides, there has been unending debates about whether Mikel is better as a defensive midfielder than as a creative midfielder or. Vice versa.

But like almost everything characteristically Nigerian, the conversation has somehow veered off issue and substance.

From Mikel's outburst, he certainly didn't know that before you go out fighting, one thing that must be strongly considered is what the defenses available to you are.

And I think it was for a lack of good defenses against the barrage of criticisms from some of these ex-internationals that makes him to take solace in his achievement as his most dependable self-defense mechanism.

But if I may ask, what has he achieved that some of these ex-internationals have not achieved?

What also has he achieved that should be sufficient to shield him from a fair criticism?

Is he the first to win the UEFA Champions cup, the premiership, and the FA cup? You can see those are not even a dependable line of defense. They fall flat on their faces.

Perhaps, he’s referring to his net worth, after all, he is said to be richest Nigerian footballer. But where does that fits in on the subject of criticism as a footballer? 

Maybe the rule will change tomorrow. But as at today, being rich doesn’t exempt him or, anybody else from been hold up to the analysts’ microscope.

Even if his trophy cabinet is unrivaled, it still doesn't remove him from criticism because even those who were better than him get criticized every now and then.

So, if he doesn't want to get criticized, the best he can do is excuse himself from activities that expressly expose him to one. Unfortunately, as things stand he is stuck.

Above all, I think his case is like that of an industrious child who because he is the one supplying the needs of the family thinks his parents should look the other way even if he does something wrong. To me, he's been just a spoilt brat. I rest my case.

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