LONDON, United Kingdom July 4 – John Obi Mikel has revealed that he learned his father had been kidnapped just hours before he played in Nigeria’s loss to Argentina which saw his country knocked out of the World Cup last week.
The Nigeria captain was informed of the news by a family member while he travelled on the team bus to the stadium in St. Petersburg. Mikel was told that he must call the kidnappers and when he did so, he was ordered to pay a ransom.
Mikel, who went on to play the full 90 minutes of the 2-1 defeat, refused to tell anyone at the Nigerian Football Federation in fear his father’s life was at risk, and partly because he did not want to be a distraction before the game
“I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,” Mikel told The Guardian. “I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kick-off to tell me what had happened.
“I was emotionally distraught and I had to make the decision about whether I was mentally ready to play. I was confused. I did not know what to do but, in the end, I knew that I could not let 180m Nigerians down.
“I had to shut it out of my head and go and represent my country first. I could not even inform the coaches or NFF staff and only a very tight circle of my friends knew.
“I was told that they would shoot my dad instantly if I reported to the authorities or told anybody. I also did not want to discuss it with the coach [Gernot Rohr] because I did not want my issue to become a distraction to him or the rest of the team on the day of such an important game. As much as I wanted to discuss it with the coach, I could not.”
Mikel’s father, Pa Michael Obi, had previously been abducted back in 2011 when he was held captive for 10 days.
On this occasion, he was kidnapped in south-east Nigeria as he travelled to a funeral. The police in Nigeria were able to secure his release but Mikel said his father was tortured during a week-long ordeal.
“Thankfully, my father was safely released on Monday afternoon,” he added. “I thank the police authorities for their rescue efforts and the support I’ve received from friends and family members.
“Unfortunately, my dad is now in hospital receiving emergency treatment as a result of the torture he received during his capture.”