John Michael Nchekwube Obinna (born 22 April 1987), known as John Obi Mikel, John Mikel Obi or Mikel John Obi, is a Nigerian professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for English club Chelsea and the Nigeria national team.
Mikel was born in Jos, Nigeria as John Michael Nchekwube Obinna, the son of Michael Obi, who runs an inter-state transport company in Jos, the capital of Plateau State. As his father was a member of the Igbo ethnic group, “Nchekwube” means “hope” and “Obi” is a nickname for the Igbo name “Obinna” (meaning “Father´s heart”).
Mikel started his official football career at the age of 12 when picked as a talented footballer from over 3000 young talents to play in Pepsi Football Academy. A team which at that particular time was well known for going around Nigeria to search for the best there is from all the upcoming future stars, young talents to later move on to rather more professional football. Already then Obi stood out to all the scouts.
Video: Mikel Obi’s Mansion in London
He got picked to play in a top-flight team Plateau United also known for making stars from players like Celestine Babayaro, Victor Obinna, Chris Obodo and many more which moved on to playing in European teams and representing their country later on in their careers. Later known as John Obi Mikel he was gaining headlines for his country at the FIFA Under-17 World Championships held in Finland. Subsequently he went on trial to South Africa club Ajax Cape Town, before joining Lyn in Norway.
During preparations for the 2003 FIFA Under-17 World Championships, the Nigerian Football Association mistakenly submitted “Michael” as “Mikel” for the tournament in Finland. He decided to keep the new name, saying that it had a special ring to it. On 31 July 2006, he stated that he prefers to be called Mikel John Obi instead of John Obi Mikel, as he had most commonly been called.
In the summer of 2005, Mikel played for Nigeria at the FIFA World Youth Championships held in the Netherlands. He had an excellent tournament until Nigeria reached the final, where they lost 2–1 to Argentina. Obi won the Silver Ball after being voted the tournament’s second best player.
On 29 April 2005, a few days after Mikel turned 18, Premier League club Manchester United announced that it had struck a deal with the Norwegian club Lyn Oslo to sign the player. United’s website also claimed that they had done a deal directly with the teenager and that he had signed a contract to join them. Mikel’s agents were bypassed as the club persuaded the youngster to sign a four-year contract without representation. Lyn Oslo allegedly sent a fax to his agents abroad, claiming their services were no longer required by Mikel. Reports said the deal was initially worth £4 million, and would see the player arrive at Old Trafford in January 2006.