The latest edition of Chelsea is an international special, as the magazine looks back on a successful Africa Cup of Nations campaign for Nigeria with the help of John Mikel Obi, as well as looking ahead to the forthcoming friendly between Brazil and Russia at Stamford Bridge.
Mikel has more medals and trophies on his mantelpiece at the age of 25 than most players are able to gather over the course of their whole careers.
Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, Mikel has tasted success in all of them, but the midfielder went one better back in January and added a trophy at international level to his ever-expanding collection, when Nigeria were crowned Kings of Africa.
The Super Eagles beat Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final of the competition after overcoming Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast in the semi-final, and Mikel was astonished at the reaction of supporters back in his homeland.
‘It was crazy,’ he tells Chelsea. ‘It was really nice to go back home after the tournament with the cup – the whole country was waiting.
‘It was a big, big thing, because we couldn’t walk, we couldn’t actually get out of the airport. The whole way through, from the airport to the hotel where we were staying, it was crazy.’
Mikel, somewhat unsurprisingly given his experience at club level, was an ever-present during the tournament, playing, as he does for Nigeria, in a slightly more advanced role than he is accustomed to at Stamford Bridge.
A number of the younger, less established members of the squad sought guidance from him as Nigeria continued to progress, and it was a role he was happy to take on.
‘Every major tournament makes you become more mature,’ he said. ‘I think it’s because I have played in so many major tournaments at such a young age that I have maturity – you go through a hard time to win tournaments and it makes you grow.
‘It’s a life experience and it’s something that I have been lucky enough to do from a young age at Chelsea as well, where I have played alongside some of the best players in the world and I’ve learnt a lot from them.’
African football continues to grow each year, and what gave Mikel most satisfaction from Nigeria’s success was lifting the trophy when the competition was so fierce.
‘The level has gone right up,’ he explained. ‘So to win it this time was just amazing. To win it at a stage when African football has become so interesting – when there are so many African players abroad – was really, really difficult, and we did it.’
BRAZILIANS AT THE BRIDGE
International football makes a welcome return to Stamford Bridge when Brazil take on Russia on Monday 25 March.
If selected, our Brazilian trio will have the opportunity to represent their home nation at the home of their club, and Ramires is relishing the prospect.
‘I can’t wait, and I’m sure David Luiz and Oscar are very much looking forward to this moment as well,’ Ramires tells the latest edition of the magazine.
‘I hope we are all selected to play in the game. Brazil have played many friendlies in London, but it has never been at our home stadium, but now they are coming to Stamford Bridge and it’s such an exciting possibility for us.
‘Hopefully it will be a great game and we can get a win. If I am chosen to play in the game here, that will be another one to tell my kids about.’
After signing for the Blues in the summer of 1997, Dutch goalkeeper Ed de Goey enjoyed a memorable first season at the club, winning both the League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup. In this month’s Boys Are Back in Town feature, De Goey, now working as a coach back in his homeland, talks about his decision to move to Stamford Bridge, a remarkable maiden Champions League campaign for the club and the importance of a back-up goalkeeper.
COLE JOINS EXCLUSIVE CLUB
Elsewhere in this month’smagazine, Ashley Cole speaks about becoming only the seventh player in history to reach 100 caps for England, an achievement reached in the recent friendly win against Brazil, ensuring the left-backs joins the likes of David Beckham, Peter Shilton and Bobby Charlton.
MARK AUSTIN IS IN THE NEWS
As one of the most recognisable newsreaders in the country, Mark Austin has been at the heart of some of the biggest stories to break over the years. The former sports correspondent and Chelsea supporter is the subject of this month’s One of Us, where he remembers the first time he watched the Blues back in 1972, being on the job at Italia ’90 and his fondness for Claude Makelele.
The latest edition of Chelsea is on sale now and available from all good newsagents and the Megastore, priced at £3.25.
Tickets for Brazil v Russia are still available from the Stamford Bridge box office, online or via the call centre on 9871 984 1905.