John Obi Mikel has revealed that he felt “emotionally distraught” during Nigeria’s loss to Argentina as he had learned that his father had been kidnapped just hours before the match.
The 31-year-old played a full part for the Super Eagles as they fell to a 2-1 defeat in last week’s crucial World Cup group-stage clash.
Mikel was given the news of the kidnapping by a family member as he travelled to the ground in St Petersburg, but he refused to tell the Nigerian Football Federation as he feared for his father’s life and did not want to disrupt his teammates’ preparations.
“I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,” he told The Guardian. “I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kickoff to tell me what had happened. 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 180m 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. 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’s late defeat at the Krestovsky Stadium brought an end to their World Cup campaign.
Police in Nigeria later secured Mikel’s father’s release, but only after he was tortured during a week-long ordeal.