John Mikel Obi has revealed that he was forced to pay from his pocket to help Nigeria’s U-23 team, who went on to win bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil.
Mikel Obi, who helped out with travel arrangement, meals and booking training pitches, also slammed the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).
“I think if we talk about the money that I put into the team I think it was more than [£30,000],” Mikel told our coresponddent.
“But we just had to do it. I said to myself, ‘I won’t let this happen. If I can help, I’ll try to help’. Sometimes there was no food, sometimes there was no pitch to train on, there was no bus to go to the training ground. So all of this was what me and the coach had to figure out, and get money together.
“I came to the camp. I sat down with the boys in Atlanta and I could see the frustration, the pain and the anger. Their aim was to play in the Olympics, their goal was to play in the Olympics.
“And for me being there and seeing what they are going through, they are young boys, they want to start their career and someone in the ministry is trying to crush that dream.”
Mikel and his team-mates arrived in Brazil few hours before their first match against Japan in Manaus, which they went on to win 5-4.
“There was just no flight provided by the Nigerian ministry,” he added.
“We planned to leave three or four days before the tournament, but we ended up leaving the day of our first game. It was a difficult one. I don’t think I have ever seen something like that before, it was crazy.
“After our last minute flight, we got to the hotel, dropped our bags, grabbed some sandwiches, something to eat. A little bit of food. Then headed straight back to the stadium because we hadn’t even done our accreditations then, so we had to go there and wait in the line, do our accreditation.
“It was absolutely hectic. I don’t know how we managed to go onto the pitch and win that game, it was absolutely mind blowing.”