Hours before he led Nigeria into their final World
Cup group phase tie against Argentina, Mikel John
Obi was told that his father had been kidnapped-
However was warned his father would be killed if
he reported anything. A family member called to
drop the shocking news as he travelled on the
team bus to the stadium in St Petersburg last
south-east Nigeria as he travelled to a funeral
along the Makurdi-Enugu expressway from Jos.
The footballer said he didn’t tell anyone at the
Nigerian Football Federation because he feared
they might distract him.
He told Guardian, he had to suppress the trauma,
although he was emotionally distraught -he says
he had to make the decision about whether he
was mentally ready to play.
“I played while my father was in the hands
of bandits,” 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 but, in the end, 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 [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
“Thankfully, my father was safely released
on Monday afternoon. 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
A late goal from Marcus Rojo saw Nigeria lose 2-1
and subsequently crashed out of the 2018 FIFA
World cup in Russia.