Nigeria’s team captain found out his father was kidnapped hours before a pivotal World Cup match

Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel.

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Nigeria captain John Obi Mikel.
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Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

  • John Obi Mikel, the captain of Nigeria’s World Cup team, found out his father was kidnapped and being held for ransom hours before the team’s make-or-break World Cup match against Argentina.
  • Mikel played the match anyway.
  • His father has since been rescued and received medical attention.
  • Nigeria would go on to lose the match and get eliminated from the World Cup.

When Nigeria went into what turned out to be its last match of the World Cup, their team captain John Obi Mikel went in knowing that his father had been kidnapped and was being held for ransom.

As reported by Colin Udoh in KweséESPN, Mikel heard about the kidnapping four hours before Nigeria’s match against Argentina, when he received a call from the kidnappers, who demanded ransom and threatened to kill Mikel’s father if he alerted the authorities.

“I did not know what to do, but in the end I knew that I could not let 180 million Nigerians down,” Mikel said.

“I had to shut it out of my head and go and represent my country first . . . And I did not want to discuss it with the coach because I did not want my issue to become a distraction to the coach or the rest of the team on the day of such an important game. So as much as I wanted to discuss it with the coach, I could not do it.”

According to Udoh, Mikel’s father was abducted along an expressway while traveling to a funeral. He and his driver were rescued by police on July 2 during a shootout with police, and he has received medical attention.

According to Udoh, Mikel’s father was tortured by the kidnappers. He returned to the hospital on Tuesday because of some medical issues and may be sent abroad for further treatment.

Nigeria, meanwhile, were ultimately eliminated from the World Cup after losing to Argentina.