By Amara Christa
Mikel Obi has revealed that he was ordered by Trabzonspor’s president, Ahmet Agaoglu, to take down his comments on Instagram criticising the Turkish football authorities for not suspending the season despite the spread of coronavirus globally.
Mikel departed Trabzonspor by mutual consent nine months after he joined the club on Tuesday as he felt the Turkish FA was becoming unreasonable over their handling of the pandemic outbreak.
In an interview with The Athletic, Mikel, who has since returned to London with his family, vowed not to return to Turkey again after he gave up his contract.
“They were really upset about the whole thing,” Mikel told The Athletic. “I was told to meet with the president (Agaoglu) in his office one-on-one. He (Agaoglu) asked me to take it down (the Instagram post).
“I told him I wasn’t going to do that. It’s my opinion. This is how I feel. We live in a free world. I have freedom of speech. I can express my opinion.
“I wanted to win the league too but at this point in time, we have to think about what is more important: to save peoples’ lives.
“I want to help in any way that I can to defeat this virus. For us to be out there playing; I don’t think we are helping the global situation. I don’t feel it is right for us to play football.
“UEFA has postponed football. How come they are still playing in Turkey? It’s not right at all. But Trabzonspor were not having it — for me, they don’t care.
“I told them I wanted to go home. They said, ‘If you go home, you’re not coming back.’ I said, ‘OK, I’m going home.
“I explained to the club that I needed to see and be with my kids. They were calling me every single morning, crying on the phone, wondering why their friends were not coming over for play dates, why they can’t touch anyone on the street. I didn’t feel happy every morning lying to my kids, making up stories to explain why in order to try not to make them panic (about COVID-19).
“I knew if I came home, they’d be relaxed because they’d then know daddy was home. I told the club, ‘OK, if that’s what you’re saying, I’m ready to give up my contract. To be with my family, to help the world to do the right thing — everybody needs to stay at home at this point in time’.
“I have taken a financial hit by taking this stance. It is worth every single penny, I’m telling you. To see my kids happy and fine, to know we will survive this together, the only way we can beat this is by being at home with your family, taking care of your family, your neighbour.
“When I arrived back at London Heathrow, it was amazing. My girlfriend has been panicking all week over the possibility of the UK borders being shut and me not being able to come back home, that I’d be stuck in Turkey. Just imagine if this goes on for months? I wouldn’t be able to see my kids, to help my family?
God forbid anything happened to them and I wasn’t there. I wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice.
“Before we hugged, I had to come home and shower, change my clothes and everything. In Turkey, I was not tested or anything like that. I had to make sure I did the right things before touching them.
He also ruled out returning to Trabzonspor.
“I thought, ‘The more this goes on, I won’t be safe out there’. I just kept myself locked up. I went to training and then I would go back to my flat. That is basically all I did until I came home.
“I was doing so well, playing every week. The team was winning, top of the league. We were playing well. I was enjoying my football out there. We had a
chance to win the league but I gave that all up to do the right thing.”
“Go back to Trabzonspor? No chance,” he says. “Not with the way they have dealt with this situation.
“We have to look at ourselves sometimes in life and ask, ‘what is more important? Who do I want to be friends with? When I’m in trouble, who is going to look after me?’ And, the way they have dealt with this, I don’t see myself going back to Trabzonspor again.
The former Chelsea and Middlesbrough player however hopes to return to football again when the virus is defeated.
“I hope (there will be offers from elsewhere). I hope I will be back out on the pitch once everything is settled and everyone is back at work, everything is back to normal. I want to be out there as soon as possible. But we have to defeat this virus first.
“I am looking forward to my next chapter. I don’t know where it’s going to be. I want to be closer to home, somewhere in England maybe. But we will see what happens. The best option is where I will go.
“In the meantime, my girls will help keep me fit! I will be in the gym too and if I can, I will do some running outside.”