Mikel’s Olympic diary: How he led team to reject ‘tiny’ plane

My Olympics adventure took a while to take off but the Nigeria football team have certainly been flying since we arrived in Brazil.

Not everything went according to plan at the start, mainly because there seemed to be a problem getting a plane big enough to take us from our training base in Atlanta to Manaus for our first match.

Proud of our young team, excited for the future #DreamTeamVI
Proud of our young team, excited for the future #DreamTeamVI

I will never forget

going to the airport and seeing this tiny aircraft that had been booked for us.

It was so small and only had room for about 25 people. I don’t know how they expected us to get on that plane, we all have families.

We were also told that it would need to make two stops on the way to refuel, fly overnight and take eight hours.

I had to step up for the team and told them we have to get a better plane or we will wait in Atlanta. Thankfully a better plane came out of nowhere and we ended up on a direct flight, that took us just five hours.

But it meant we only arrived on the day of the game and I think it contributed to the crazy opening match against Japan. We won 5-4 and the goals just seemed to be flying in all over the place. Significantly, with more time to prepare, Nigeria won the next match with Sweden 1-0 and everyone was far more compact.

Unfortunately, I didn’t end up carrying the Nigeria flag at the opening ceremony as expected.

Our first two games were in Manaus and we arrived so late, we didn’t have the time to arrange for me to fly to Rio straight after the Japan match and then come back again to face Sweden.

We decided it was going to be too much for me as it takes four hours each way. It was obviously disappointing.

I watched some of the ceremony but then I got a bit too emotional and had to switch off because I knew I was supposed to be there.

But that’s life and I still have a lot to be excited about. We are already in the quarter-finals, regardless of the result against Colombia in our final group game.

Everyone is determined to carry on the momentum and keep winning, so we won’t be taking it easy (with Colombia).

There is also a possibility that we might get the hosts Brazil in the next round but I say “bring it on”.

If we don’t face them now, we could play them later so there is no point being worried about them or anyone else in the tournament.

After all the drama of getting here, the dream of winning the gold medal is the only thing on my mind.

Mikel’s Olympic diary: How he led team to reject ‘tiny’ plane on Vanguard News.


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