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'I played while my father was in the hands of bandits': Mikel reveals kidnap ordeal overshadowed Argentina clash

The Nigerian captain was told to call kidnappers hours before last Tuesday’s World Cup group D meeting kicked off.

Image: Ricardo Mazalan

JOHN OBI MIKEL says he had to ‘suppress the trauma’ after being told that his father had been kidnapped hours before Nigeria’s crucial World Cup group meeting with Argentina.

The 31-year-old’s father, Pa Michael Obi, was released yesterday after being held in a week-long ordeal by captors. He is currently recovering in hospital after the Nigeria captain reportedly paid a 10 million Naira ransom (€24,000).

“I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,” the former Chelsea midfielder told The Guardian today.

“I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kick-off 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,” said Mikel who said his father’s hospital treatment comes as a result of torture.

Nigeria v Iceland - FIFA World Cup 2018 - Group D - Volgograd Arena Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

“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.

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 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.”

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Sean Farrell

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