John Obi Mikel, a midfielder and captain for Nigeria, has revealed that he played his country’s final group stage game, against Argentina, despite knowing that his father had been kidnapped.
Pa Michael Obi has since been rescued.
Abducted hours before game
Mikel told KweseESPN that he got a phone call from the kidnappers just four hours before Nigeria’s game against Argentina last Tuesday; they were demanding N10 million (or $26,000 US) from the 31-year-old to return his father.
The kidnappers told Mikel not to tell authorities or they would shoot his father “instantly.”
Mikel not only didn’t tell authorities, he didn’t tell the Nigeria Football Federation or his coach, Gernot Rohr, and played against Argentina, trying to pretend nothing was wrong.
“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,” Mikel said. “I had to shut it out of my head and go and represent my country first. I was told that they would shoot my dad instantly if I reported to the authorities or told anybody.
“And I did not want to discuss it with the coach because 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. So as much as I wanted to discuss it with the coach, I could not do it.”
Nigeria lost the game, 2-1, and was eliminated from the World Cup.