Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel discovered that his father, Pa Michael Obi, was abducted just four hours prior to the African side’s Group D finale against Argentina on June 26.
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The former Chelsea midfielder was notified by a family member of the kidnapping while the Super Eagles were en route to the stadium to face the Albiceleste, however, Mikel wasn’t able to discuss the matter with any of his teammates or members of the Nigeria federation due to strict demands from his father’s captors.
Mikel’s father has since been rescued, and is receiving hospital care after being held captive in his native Nigeria.
John Obi Mikel spoke of the experience with the Guardian:
“I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,” Mikel said. “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.”
Nigeria fell to the Albiceleste, 2-1, in their Group D finale, which left the African side a point short of reaching the knockout phase.Follow @MattReedFutbol