Super Eagles captain Mikel Obi has narrated how he played a key game for his team during the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup despite his father, Michael, being in captivity.
Nigeria needed a draw with Argentina to advance to the round of 16 last Tuesday but, unknown to his colleagues, Mikel had a much bigger issue to deal with.
Kidnappers had his father in their custody and were demanding a huge ransom. He had also been warned not to involve security agencies if he wanted his father back alive and in one piece.
“I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,” Mikel was quoted by The Guardian on Tuesday.
“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. 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.
“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 bravely went on to post an impressive performance against Argentina although his side still lost 2-1 and got eliminated.
The Enugu State Police Command on Tuesday confirmed in a statement that Mr Obi had been rescued from the kidnappers.
The kidnappers allegedly demanded N10m as ransom from Obi’s family, according to police.
“Michael Obi, the father of Eagles captain, has regained his freedom,” Enugu Police command spokesman Ebere Amaraizu said.
“He was rescued a forest in the Udi area of Enugu after a gun battle between the police and the kidnappers, who escaped during the shootout.
“He is right now in the office of the Enugu State police commissioner.”