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Nigeria's Mikel told father kidnapped hours before match

KIDNAPPING: Mikel's father was held for ransom in Nigeria amid football's biggest tournament

NIGERIA WORLD Cup team captain Mikel John Obi found out that his father had been kidnapped just hours before him and his countrymen played against Argentina in their last game at the World Cup in Russia.

The Tianjin TEDA midfielder was told what had happened to his father as he made his way to play in St Petersburg on Tuesday, June 26.

“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.”

The kidnappers demanded a ransom and said that Mikel’s father would be killed if he reported anything to the authorities.

Speaking to the Guardian, Mikel said that he could not disclose the information to anyone at 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.

“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.”

Mikel’s father Pa Michael Obi was released safely on Monday (July 2) but is now being treated for injuries he sustained during his captivity.

“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.”

On Twitter, Mikel thank everyone who had supported him through the incident.

“I would like to thank the 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 family. My family and I are grateful,” he wrote.

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