Follow us

Sport

Nigeria's captain John Obi Mikel reveals his father was kidnapped hours before World Cup game against Argentina

Mikel decided to hide the news from his teammates and coach so as not to destabilise the team

T2 Online Newsdesk 4 July 2018, 12:21 PM
Mikel's father has now been rescued

Mikel's father has now been rescued Image: AFP

Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel played in a crucial World Cup match against Argentina four hours after being told his father had been kidnapped for ransom back home and would be shot if anyone talked to the police.

"I had to shut it out of my head and go and represent my country first," Mikel said.

Mikel decided to hide the news from his teammates and coach so as not to destabilise the team and went ahead and played the game in Russia, the midfielder said in a statement released by his management company on Tuesday.

Mikel's father, Michael Obi, was rescued from armed kidnappers by Nigerian police following a shootout in a remote, forest area in southeastern Nigeria on Monday, nearly a week after his abduction.

That allowed the player to talk about the incident publicly.

Police said Michael Obi, who was rescued along with his driver, had "recovered from the trauma of the kidnap".

In a post on his official Twitter account later on Tuesday, Mikel said his father was "recuperating with family".

This was the second time Michael Obi had been kidnapped in Nigeria.

Mikel said he received a telephone call in St Petersburg last Tuesday telling him of his father's abduction as the Nigeria team was heading to the stadium to play in the World Cup against Lionel Messi and Argentina.

Nigeria lost 2-1 after a late Argentina goal and was eliminated from the World Cup as a result. Mikel played the whole game knowing that his father was in grave danger.

"I was emotionally distraught but had to make a decision about whether I was mentally ready to play the game," Mikel said in his statement. "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 could not even inform the coaches or Nigeria Football Federation (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," he added.

The kidnappers demanded a ransom of $28,000 for Mikel's father, according to Nigerian police in the southeastern state where his father was rescued.

Police spokesman Ebere Amaraizu said Michael Obi was rescued along with his driver after a shootout and no ransom was paid. The two men had been held by the kidnappers for nearly a week after being abducted on a road while travelling from the central city of Jos to a funeral in the southeastern state of Enugu.

Kidnappings for ransom targeting family members of wealthy people are common in Nigeria, an oil-rich nation of nearly 200 million people and Africa's most populous country.

I did not want my issue to become a distraction to the coach or the rest of the team on the day of such an important game. John Obi Mikel

Mikel, one of Nigeria's most successful players, was at Chelsea in the Premier League from 2006-17. He moved to Chinese club Tianjin Teda last year.

His father was also kidnapped in 2011, when the kidnappers demanded a $4 billion ransom from Chelsea.

On that occasion, Michael Obi was kidnapped in Jos and rescued in the northern city of Kano, 190 miles away, 10 days later.

Mikel said he desperately wanted to talk about his father's latest kidnapping with Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr at the World Cup, but thought it would upset the team, and so kept quiet.

"I did not want my issue to become a distraction to the coach or the rest of the team on the day of such an important game," Mikel said. "So as much as I wanted to discuss it with the coach, I could not do it. Thankfully, he is now safely released," said Mikel.

(Inputs from AP)

Read more:

Diego Maradona shows the middle finger to Nigeria fans, and Tweeple are busy investigating

Lionel Messi fans in Pakistan are celebrating as if Argentina have won the FIFA World Cup

Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone's mother-in-law kidnapped in Brazil

Trending stories

BACK TO TOP
We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website by showing you relevant ads and content. By continuing your navigation, you accept the placement and use of cookies. To learn more about cookies and/ or to opt-out of these services, please see our Cookie Policy.