John Obi Mikel Learned His Father Had Been Abducted Just Hours Before Nigeria Faced Argentina
"I was told that they would shoot my dad instantly if I reported to the authorities or told anybody," recounts Nigeria's national team captain.
John Obi Mikel has released a statement, thanking Nigerian police for their efforts in helping rescue his father, and informing supporters that his father has returned home, where he is now recuperating.
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Last Tuesday, as soccer fans gathered to watch Nigeria take on Argentina in what would be their final 2018 World Cup match, the Super Eagle's captainJohn Obi Mikel learned some harrowing news: his father, Pa Michael Obi, had been kidnapped as he headed to a funeral in Southeastern Nigeria.
As Kwesé ESPN reports, despite what he had just learned, Mikel went on to face Argentina, as he was told by kidnappers that his father would be killed if he were to alert authorities just four hours before kickoff. The kidnappers demanded N10 million ($28,000) for his father's safe return.
"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," Obi told Kwese ESPN. "I played while my father was in the hands of bandits," he continued. "I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kickoff to tell me what had happened."
His father and his driver, who were being held in the city of Egede in Enugu State, spent 6 days in captivity, and were rescued after a "gun duel" took place on Monday between the kidnappers and policemen, which forced the kidnappers to flee and leave the victims behind, the Nigerian Police confirmed in a statement on Tuesday. Obi senior, was taken to the hospital to recieve treatment for injuries he sustained.
Mikel spoke out about the incident for the very first time on Tuesday, revealing that he kept the information from his coach as well as the Nigerian Football Federation.
"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, he said. "So as much as I wanted to discuss it with the coach, I could not do it."
Despite being rocked by such difficult news, the player decided, that at that time, it was best to focus on representing his country on the world stage. "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."