The father of Mikel John Obi had been kidnapped just hours before he led Nigeria against Argentina.
A family member called him and told him that he had to call the kidnappers on a designated number. When Mikel did so, he was ordered to pay a ransom.
Pa Michael Obi was abducted in south-east Nigeria as he travelled to a funeral along the Makurdi-Enugu expressway from Jos. The police in Nigeria were able to secure his release but Mikel said his father was tortured during a week-long ordeal and is currently receiving emergency treatment in hospital.
“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.
“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.”