Nigeria national team captain John Obi Mikel told KweseESPN his father was kidnapped just hours before the team's final World Cup group stage match against Argentina. The kidnappers told him his father would be killed if he reported the incident to authorities.
Mikel told KweseESPN's Colin Udoh that he got a call from the kidnappers about four hours before Nigeria's World Cup match in Saint Petersburg against Argentina with a demand for $28,000 to secure his father's release. Mikel played the entire match vs. Argentina, which the South American side won 2-1 to eliminate the Super Eagles from knockout-stage contention.
“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 kickoff to tell me what had happened."
Mikel did not tell anyone about the kidnapping–not his coaches nor the Nigerian Football Federation. His father, Pa Michael Obi, was taken by captors on his way to a funeral.
"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," Mikel said. "I did not want to discuss it with the coach because I did not want my issue to become a distraction to the coach or the rest of the team on the day of such an important game. So as much as I wanted to discuss it with the coach, I could not do it."
Enugu State Police Command said they rescued Mikel's father after six days in captivity and was taken to a hospital for treatment of his injuries.
This was the second time that Mikel's father had been kidnapped, after a similiar incident in 2011.