Does Joel Chukwuma Obi Deserve Super Eagles Recall?
Soon-to-be popularly accepted as an Ex-Super Eagles International Joel Chukwuma Obi was on the news this week having won a case against a player who racially insulted him in a league match in Italy a few months ago.
Pisa FC forward Michele Marconi has now been handed a 10-match ban for using a racist phrase against Obi in an incident that occurred on December 22, 2020 when their teams slugged out a 2:2 draw.
I stand in solidarity with Joel Obi at this time and hope he continues to receive the support of his club for such derogatory words directed at him.
Outside this issue, one has to ask how come fans of experienced 29 year old midfielder are not clamoring for his Super Eagles consideration and perhaps actual invitation? This season, the former Inter Milan concord jet has racked up a bumper 28 league appearances in Serie B netting in an impressive 4 goals while providing 1 assist. He has been handed a pink slip in 1 match while accumulating 4 yellow cards.
In an alternative universe, a platoon of Obi warriors will be up in arms that such a cool and experienced head is being overlooked by Gernot Rohr. I remember vividly how his faithfuls nursed a grudge against the late Great Stephen Keshi for inviting and then discarding Obi ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
They held this utopian memory of a player whose injury record (for me) had eroded much of the player they knew despite still playing in Italy. From what I saw, Obi had lost a yard of pace and his game had already frayed around the edges even back in 2014.
Keshi saw what many didn't and duly jettisoned the then-22 year old winger-turn-midfielder from his controversial World Cup squad. But Obi would have his chance 4 years later when Gernot Rohr recalled him to stake a claim in Nigeria's 2018 world cup outfit.
Other than denying high-flying John Ogu valuable game-time, Obi brought no spark, no bite, no creativity and no verve to Nigeria's midfield in the tune up matches to the 2018 World Cup.
In his last match for the Super Eagles - a high profile riveting friendly against England in June 2018 at the historic Wembley stadium in London, goal.com gave Obi the lowest ratings of all in an appraisal that summed up what a waste of time it and an exercise in futility it was bringing him back.
"Joel Obi 2/10: It seems like absolutely nothing has gone right for Joel Obi since he returned to the national side.
He just looks so in the way at times, not of the opposition, but of his own teammates. His early collision with Leon Balogun, and then his later obstruction of Bryan Idowu, just about summed his day up." Wrote the goal.com's match correspondence.
Joel Obi would go on to make 2018 Nigeria's world cup squad where he watched all the proceedings from the bench - and quite rightly so.
I am appreciative of Joel Obi's national team contributions (when he was at his best) and am really happy for his outputs in Italy thus far this season. I do hope he can continue to banish his injury demons perpetually as I see him playing club football for another 3 years.
But as far as the Super Eagles is concerned, it would make for comic relief should Gernot Rohr recall him to the national team to feature at next year's World Cup paraventure Nigeria qualifies.
However well he is doing in club football, even his most hardcore supporters will call for caution in contemplation of such a meaningless move.
The utopian memories they had of him might just have been replaced by the dystopian recollection of his mundane contributions in the lead up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
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