Keshi: Mikel not forced on me

Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi has insisted he was not forced to recall Mikel Obi to his team.

Chelsea midfielder Mikel is one of 15 foreign-based professionals called up for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations return leg qualifier against Liberia.

There has been a clamour by fans and officials alike for Mikel to return to the team, but Keshi maintained he alone took the decision to pick the player for the Liberia clash.

“I hear people say Mikel Obi was forced on me. That’s not true. I speak to Mikel almost every day and he has declared his readiness to make the Liberia game,” Keshi said.

“He wants to play for his country and I hope he brings his best to the national team.”

Mikel has yet to play for the Eagles under Keshi, who replaced Samson Siasia in November.

Keshi has gone for a larger contingent of foreign-based players than previously and he said this is to ensure that Nigeria qualify for next year’s Nations Cup in South Africa.

“I increased the foreign-based players because we need all our best legs for the final game,” he defended.

“You know we have some players that must prove their fitness and as such we have enough to fill any space should it happen any of these players are not fit for the Calabar.”

Kano Pillars pair of Gabriel Reuben and Papa idris as well as Joel Obi of Inter Milan have been picked after long-term injuries and Keshi said he wishes to ascertain their fitness levels.

“Gabriel Rueben and Papa Idris, I included them to ascertain their fitness level same goes for Joel Obi,” he disclosed.

The 23 players from the Nigeria Premier League will resume training camp on Sunday in Abuja, while the foreign pros will join up in Calabar from October 8.