Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel expressed his pride after Nigeria U23’s 3-2 victory over Honduras ensured they won the 2016 Olympic Games bronze medal. The victory was secured by Sadiq Umar’s brace and second half from Aminu Umar and also ensured Nigeria join East Germany, Hungary, Serbia and Brazil as they only countries to have won all the medals in the Games’ men football event. A successful campaign in Brazil have sparked optimism about the Super Eagles’ chances of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia having missed out of two consecutives Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. “To lead this team to an Olympic medal, and make Nigerians proud – this is why I play football,” Obi tweeted. The 29-year-old was outstanding throughout the competition and got one of Nigeria’s goals in the 2-0 quarter-final defeat of Denmark. Having ended the championship on a high, he is expected to return to the Stamford Bridge where he is expected to battle for a regular place in Antonio Conte’s squad. Mikel has also been named in Nigeria’s squad to face Tanzania in next month’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
The Rio Olympics ended with a spectacular carnival-inspired closing ceremony, and the official handover to 2020 hosts Tokyo. The colourful ceremony, lasting almost three hours, celebrated Brazil’s arts and was held in a wet Maracana. Among the highlights were Tokyo’s impressive showcase and a vibrant carnival parade. “These were a marvellous Olympics, in a marvellous city,” said International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach. “Over the last 16 days a united Brazil inspired the world, in difficult times for all of us, with its irresistible joy for life.” Bach officially closed the Games of the 31st Olympiad after 16 days of competition, featuring 11,303 athletes from 206 nations and a refugee team. One of the biggest cheers of the night came when Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared dressed as computer game character Super Mario, rising out of a huge green pipe in the stadium. The ceremony, watched by billions around the world, featured the parade of athletes and a dramatic extinguishing of the Olympic flame.
A benefactor has handed a reward of $390,000 to the Nigerian Olympic football team in Brazil after the West African country won bronze on Saturday. Japanese plastic surgeon Katsuya Takasu had promised to reward the team after hearing about their financial difficulties before and during the tournament. Takasu fulfilled his promise by presenting cheques of $200,000 and $190,000 to coach Samson Siasia and captain John Mikel Obi respectively on behalf of the team. He met with them two hours after Nigeria defeated Honduras 3-2 in the bronze medal play-off. “The $200,000 covers the bonuses and allowances as promised and the $190,000 is for the bronze medal,” Takasu said. “I had travelled from Tokyo prepared to reward them anyway, and to watch them win the bronze inside the stadium was very fulfilling,” he added. Before arriving in Rio, Nigeria’s ‘Dream Team VI’ were held up in Atlanta, USA, because of a problem with the payment for their flight, and they only landed in Brazil just hours before their opening 5-4 win over Japan. Nigeria also had a troubled build-up to their quarter-final against Denmark after the players boycotted a training session in a dispute over pay. “This team showed resilience and fought the hardest to achieve success, despite all their problems – some people would have given up but they didn’t,” said Takasu. “In everything we must always let people understand that they are appreciated and not just in football but generally in life.”