St Petersburg: In a startling revelation, Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel said he learnt that his father had been kidnapped just hours before he led Nigeria into their final World Cup group phase tie against Argentina. “I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,” Mikel was quoted as saying by The Guardian. “I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kick-off to tell me what had happened.”
The former Chelsea midfielder got the news as he travelled on the team bus to the stadium here last week. According to the report, Mikel was asked to call the kidnappers on a designated number. On doing so, the 31-year old was asked to cough up a ransom.
Mikel told the Guardian that he could not confide in anyone in the Nigerian Football Federation. “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,” Mikel said.
Mikel played out the entire 90 minutes as Nigeria lost 2-1 to Argentina. “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.
“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,” Mikel further said.