Nigeria captain Mikel John Obi has revealed that his father was kidnapped a few hours before their final World Cup group phase tie against Argentina.
According to The Guardian, a UK newspaper, the former Chelsea midfielder received the shocking news as he travelled on the team bus to the stadium in St Petersburg last Tuesday.
Mikel didn’t tell anyone what had happened and went on to play as Nigeria suffered a 2-1 defeat.
“I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,” he 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.”
Obi’s father was abducted in south-east Nigeria on his way to a funeral. The police in his home country stepped in and managed to secure his release, and is being treated in hospital for trauma after a week-long ordeal.
“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,” he added.
It is the second time that Obi’s father has been kidnapped, with the first one being in August 2011.