August 21, 2019

Russia 2018: My father was kidnapped hours before Argentina match ―Mikel

July 3, 2018
Nigeria
Nigeria captain, John Obi Mikel

John Obi Mikel has revealed his father was kidnapped just hours before he captained Nigeria in their World Cup group stage clash against Argentina.

The two sides faced off in St Petersburg last Tuesday, with Argentina winning 2-1 to book their place in the knockout stage at the Super Eagles’ expense.

However, while travelling on the team bus towards the stadium, Mikel was made aware his father had been kidnapped in south east Nigeria.

As reported by The Guardian, Mikel received a phone call from a family member telling the midfielder to call a designated number. When he made contact with the kidnappers using that number, a ransom was demanded.

Mikel did not tell anyone of his ordeal before the match, as he ‘was told that they would shoot my dad instantly if I reported to the authorities or told anybody’.

Mikel’s father, Pa Michael Obi, has since been released after the police got involved, but he is receiving emergency treatment in hospital having claimed he was tortured.

This is the second time he has been kidnapped, having gone missing in Jos, Nigeria back in 2011. This time, Obi Sr was taken as he travelled to a funeral along the Makurdi-Enugu road from Jos.

Speaking to The Guardian, Mikel said of the ordeal: “I played while my father was in the hands of bandits. 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 180 million 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.

“Thankfully, my father was safely released on Monday afternoon. 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.”

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