Tianjin Teda of China midfielder, John Mikel Obi is facing another obstacle in his search for regular action at the Chinese Super League club, as the country’s rules against influx of foreign players could limit his chances in the team.
So soon after overcoming another shade of injuries to make himself available for Teda’s latest match on Friday, after missing four straight games due to fitness issues, Mikel’s place in the squad is now limited by regulations that only three foreigners can play at any giving point of each match.
Ironically, the rule that is now affecting Mikel was actually introduced last year, when Chinese Football Association (CFA) reduced the number of foreign players teams can field in each match.
The CFA opted to allow only three foreigners play any league game, with same number of under-23 players compulsory, and teams will be allowed just five non-Chinese footballers in their squads.
This is in contrast with the former rule that allowed Chinese Super League clubs field four foreign players in each game, with one slot reserved for one from another Asian country.
The former Chelsea of England midfielder sprained his arm in Nigeria’s 2-0 win against Iceland last month, playing the rest of the tournament with a protective band.
Mikel then missed Tianjin Teda 1-0 loss to Shanghai Shenhua but returned to training for the clash against Chongqing SWM, but had to wear a protective wrist band.
Unfortunately, he ended up missing the next four matches for his side, only to resume training again on Wednesday, as he put himself into contention for Friday’s fixture against Henan Jianye.
Mikel trained without any discomfort, after overcoming a knee injury, which kept him out of action since their 2-1 loss to Dangdai Lifan on July 21, in which he played 90 minutes.
However, Mikel is no longer guaranteed a starting role with the club he captains, due to the foreign player restrictions and return of Brazilian striker, Jonathan from suspension.
Mikel also faces a battle among two other foreigners, Frank Acheampong of Ghana and Felix Bastians of Germany, in his quest to remain a regular in the Tianjin Teda roster.
Teda’s manager, Uli Stielike is now facing a dilemma over Mikel and his decision on which three foreigners he will field, based on Chinese Super League rules.