Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel has revealed that his father was kidnapped just hours before he led his team into their final 2018 FIFA World Cup group stage game against Argentina. Mikel, however, decided to play the match despite receiving the traumatising news. "I played while my father was in the hands of bandits. I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kick-off to tell me what had happened,” Mikel was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
"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,” he added.
It is learnt that Mikel received the news as he travelled on the team bus to the stadium 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.
"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.
"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.
Meanwhile, Mikel took to Twitter and thanked the Police authorities. “ I would like to thank to Police authorities involved in ensuring the safe return of my father after the ordeal this week. I will also like to thank everyone for their kind words of support. He is now recuperating with the family. My family and I are grateful,” the Nigerian captain wrote.
— Mikel John Obi (@mikel_john_obi) July 3, 2018
Mikel played out the entire 90 minutes as Nigeria lost 2-1 to Argentina. Placed in Group D, Nigeria failed to qualify for the Round of 16. They only managed to beat Iceland while lost to Argentina and group toppers Croatia. (With IANS inputs).