Nigeria football captain John Mikel Obi has called for greater security in the country after his father was kidnapped for the second time in seven years.
Hours before Nigeria’s final Fifa World Cup group match against Argentina, Obi was told that his father Michael had been abducted and would be killed if he reported anything.
Obi decided to play the match in spite of the news as he did not want to let his country down. He also chose not to tell his teammates or the Nigeria coach as he did not wish to distract them ahead of such an important match.
“I had to suppress the trauma,” he told The Guardian. “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.”
He added, “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.”
Nigeria lost the match 1-2 after a late winner scored by Argentina defender Marcos Rojo. If Nigeria had managed to hold on to a draw, they would have progressed to the last 16.
Michael Obi was finally freed on Monday after the family paid a ransom of 10 million naira (about Rs 19 lakh), the Nigerian police said.
The captors did not harm the senior Obi after seizing him at gunpoint last Thursday evening in Enugu, but they forced him to walk for about five kilometres barefoot in heavy rain, a police spokesperson added.
No arrest has been made but police are on the trail of the abductors. Obi senior had been kidnapped once before, in the central city of Jos in 2011.
Kidnapping of prominent and rich people and their families is common in southern Nigeria. The victims are usually released unhurt after a ransom is paid. John Mikel Obi said the insecurity in the country is “very scary”.
“For the second time I’ve had to live with the fears of losing my father and it is very scary,” he told BBC Sport. “Today it’s my dad but tomorrow it could be someone else which makes it very scary.”
He added, “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.”
With inputs from AFP