Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi has been given the green light by Nigeria to skip Saturday's 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifier against Sierra Leone.
Team official Emmanuel Attah told reporters that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has agreed with Chelsea for Mikel to be excused from the final group match against Sierra Leone in Abuja this weekend.
"The NFF and Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari have agreed that Mikel skip this game so as to concentrate fully on his club career," Attah said. "We agreed to this because we want the player to fully establish himself at the club while also improving the working relationship between us and the overseas clubs of our players."
Ukraine-based midfielder Yusuf Ayila and Portsmouth forward John Utaka will also miss the Sierra Leone match as a result of injuries. Ayila has since been replaced by Olympic team star Femi Ajilore. Nigeria have already qualified for the next round of the qualifying tournament for both the FIFA World Cup and the 2010 CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.
They top Group 4 with 15 points from five matches while second-placed Sierra Leone, with seven points, require a victory in Abuja to stand any chance of also making it to the next stage of the qualifiers.
South Africa and Equatorial Guinea are the other teams in this group.