Mikel John Obi and the Super Eagles of Nigeria were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup when they fell to Argentina 2-1 in the final game of Group D play last week. John Obi revealed on Tuesday that he was struggling emotionally heading into the match because he learned just hours beforehand that his father, Pa Michael Obi, had been kidnapped.
According to David Hytner of The Guardian, John Obi received a call hours before the match from a family member who told him that he had to call the kidnappers on a designated number. When he did so, the kidnappers demanded a ransom payment for his father’s safe release, and told John Obi that if he reported the incident to anybody, his father would be killed.
Pa Michael Obi was reportedly kidnapped on the way to a funeral in south-east Nigeria. The police were able to get him released, but John Obi had to play the match against Argentina while his father was still in the custody of the kidnappers. He told Hytner that he decided to play in the match because he didn’t want to let his fellow countrymen down.
“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.”
John Obi thanked the police for securing his father’s release, but did say that his father is currently in the hospital recovering from injuries inflicted by the torture he underwent at the hands of the kidnappers. It’s the second time that his father has been kidnapped in the last seven years, with the first incident happening back in August of 2011.