Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel has revealed he played in his country’s World Cup clash with Argentina knowing that his father had been kidnapped.
The 31-year-old’s father, Pa Michael Obi, was tortured during a week-long ordeal before police secured his release from the kidnappers who demanded a ransom from Nigeria’s captain and told him he would be killed if he reported the incident.
Mikel told The Guardian that he contemplated withdrawing from the match but opted to play in the 2-1 defeat without informing Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr of his father’s capture so as not to disturb the team’s preparation.
‘I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,’ said Mikel.
‘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,’ he added.
Mikel’s father, who had been kidnapped previously in 2011, was captured while travelling along the Makurdi-Enugu expressway from Jos, on his way to a funeral.
He was given emergency treatment in hospital after being released and Mikel thanked emergency services for coming to his rescue.
‘I could not even inform the coaches or NFF [Nigerian Football Federation] staff and only a very tight circle of my friends knew,’ said the former Chelsea star, now of Chinese club Tianjin Teda.
‘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 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.