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Mikel back home safely in London after quitting Trabzonspor over coronavirus stance

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Man of principle

Trabzonspor vs Buyuksehir Belediye Erzurumspor: Ziraat Turkish Cup Photo by Hakan Burak Altunoz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Chelsea legend Mikel John Obi made it very clear via social media that he didn’t want his current team, Trabzonspor, and his current league, the Turkish Süper Lig to continue playing as the rest of the Europe (outside of Russia) shut all sports down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mikel’s Instagram post did not sit well with his team, to say the least. He refused to take it down. More importantly, he didn’t want keep playing. He didn’t want to be away from his family. That went down even worse.

Faced with the choice of job versus family, he chose the latter.

“They were really upset about the whole thing. I was told to meet with the president in his office one-on-one. He asked me to take it down (the 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 have 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.’”

And so, Mikel has come home, back to London, to be with his partner and their two daughters. And he couldn’t be happier, as he told Simon Johnson of The Athletic in an exclusive interview this week.

“I explained to the club that I needed to see and be with my kids. [...] 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. [...] 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.”

-Mikel; source: The Athletic

Man like Mikel.

There’s much more from the Chelsea Legend in this interview, so be sure to check it out over at The Athletic (if you have a subscription).

Mikel joined Trabzonspor in the summer, signing a two-year contract. He leaves them at the top of the table nine months later. But there are far more important things for him now than winning trophies.

That said, he will be hoping to get back to his career once the pandemic subsides and normal life starts coming back all around the world. That “next chapter” won’t be at Trabzonspor however, that’s for sure. Maybe something a little closer to home.