Nigeria Captain Hid Dad’s Abduction, Played World Cup Match

Nigerian captain John Obi Mikel’s father was kidnapped before their FIFA World Cup 2018 match against Argentina.

2 min read
File photo of Nigerian captain John Obi Mikel from the FIFA World cup 2018.

Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel says he was told four hours before his country's crucial World Cup game against Argentina that his father had been kidnapped back home and would be shot if the player reported it to authorities.

Mikel said in a statement on Tuesday from his management company that he hid the news from his teammates and coaches in Russia and "had to shut it out of my head and go and represent my country first."

Nigeria lost last week's game in St. Petersburg 2-1 after a late Argentina goal and was eliminated from the World Cup.

Mikel's father, Michael Mikel, was freed by Nigerian police in the southeastern state of Enugu on Monday.

John Obi Mikel says he learned of his dad's kidnapping through a telephone call just before the Argentina game, but didn't tell anyone because he didn't want it to be a distraction for the team.

It's the second time his father has been kidnapped in Nigeria.

Police in the southern state of Enugu said in a statement they had rescued the father, named as Pa Michael Obi, along with his driver unhurt in the Egede-Udi forest at around 2.30 p.m. (1330 GMT) on Monday following a "gun duel".

"They were rescued hale and hearty," said the police in the statement, adding that both victims had been reunited with their families.

Kidnapping for ransom is a common problem in parts of Nigeria, particularly in the Niger Delta region, the country's oil production heartland which neighbours Enugu state.

The police statement said the abductors demanded a ransom of 10 million naira ($32,700).

Police said Mikel's father and driver had been travelling from the central city of Jos when they were taken from the Markurdi Enugu road.

"Operatives acting on intelligence information swooped on the kidnappers where a gun duel ensued," police said in the statement, adding that the abductors had abandoned their victims in the forest.

It is the second time Mikel's father has been abducted. He was kidnapped in 2011 in central Nigeria and later freed, although authorities declined to comment on how he was released.

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