The kidnappers threatened John Obi Mikel that his father would be instantly killed if he tried to contact law enforcement authorities. And like a true leader, the Nigerian captain led his team in the match as if nothing was amiss, while in reality, his father’s life hanged in the balance.
Mikel received the call while he was travelling to the stadium for his match with Lionel Messi’s side. With only four hours to go before the kick-off, a relative called him to inform of his father’s abduction and gave him a designated number to contact. When Mikel did so, the kidnappers asked him to pay ransom in exchange for his father’s release.
Mikel told The Guardian he could not tell anyone at the Nigerian Football Association because he did not want the news to be a distraction before the game.
“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,” he said.
Understandably, it took all of Mikel’s mental strength to keep his mind focused on the game as he tried to fulfill his duty to his nation.
“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,” he stated.
And he did just that.
The Nigerians put up a valiant fight which almost saw the star-studded Argentinean side out of the world cup. Mikel’s team almost secured a position in the knock-out stage of the FIFA world cup, had it not been for Argentina’s late winner, courtesy of Marcos Rojo.
Mikel’s father, Pa Michael Obi, was rescued by local authorities who informed he was doing well. He endured injuries while in abduction and is being treated a hospital. This was the second time he was kidnapped; the first incident took place in 2011.
Our men have rescued Pa Michael Obi, the father of the Super Eagles captain Mikel Obi.— EnuguStatePolice (@PoliceNG_Enugu) July 2, 2018
He was kidnapped along Markurdi - Enugu expressway but we rescued him today 2nd July, 2018 around 14:00hrs at Egede in Udi LGA of Enugu State.
He is hale and hearty.
“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 said.
Nigeria may have been knocked out of the world cup but Mikel’s heroics and his unwavering sense of duty to his country will go down in history.
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: REUTERS/Matthew Childs