Soccer Player's Father Kidnapped Hours Before World Cup Game
Just hours before the player captained his nation at the World Cup, he was told his father had been kidnapped -- and would be shot if anyone found out.
Four hours before John Obi Mikel was to take the to the field in a do-or-die World Cup clash, the Nigerian captain was told his father had been kidnapped.
Mikel was informed of Pa Michael Obi's kidnap as he traveled with his team to St Petersburg Stadium to play Argentina -- with a ransom of 10 million naira ($37,500) demanded by his captors.
Mikel said he could not tell anyone for fear his father would be killed.
“I was told that they would shoot my dad instantly if I reported to the authorities or told anybody," he told The Guardian,
He said his father had been tortured during the week-long nightmare, and had received emergency hospital treatment after being rescued.
Mikel also said he did not want to distract the team -- with a draw against Argentina being enough for the Super Eagles to progress to the knockout stages.
"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," Mikel said.
He also said he did not want to let his nation down, and captained the team despite knowing his father's situation.
“I was emotionally distraught and I had to make the decision about whether I was mentally ready to play. I was confused," he said.
"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."
Mikel took to social media on Tuesday, releasing a statement thanking the police for their efforts in rescuing his father, Pa Michael Obi.
"I would like to thank the Police authorities involved in ensuring the safe return of my father after the ordeal this week," he said.
"I will also like to thank everyone for their kind words of support. He is now recuperating with family. My family and I are grateful."
Local police, Enugu State Police released a statement on Twitter confirming the retrieval of Obi from his captors.
"Our men have rescued Pa Michael Obi, the father of the Super Eagles captain Mikel Obi," it said.
"He is hale and hearty."
This is not the first time Pa Michael Obi has been kidnapped -- he was abducted in 2011 before being freed, although authorities at the time would not reveal the circumstances surrounding his release.