John Obi Mikel told father had been kidnapped before Argentina clash

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Elliott Bretland

John Obi Mikel was told his father had been kidnapped and would be killed if he reported anything just hours before Nigeria’s World Cup clash with Argentina.

The former Chelsea midfielder was informed of the news by a family member on his way to the game in St Petersburg and was told to call a number. He was then ordered to pay a ransom.

Mikel kept it to himself as he did not want it to prove a distraction to the nation’s football team, he told the Guardian newspaper.

The 31-year-old’s father was tortured during a week-long ordeal and is now receiving emergency treatment in hospital after being rescued by police authorities.

“I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,” Mikel said. “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 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.”

Mikel played the full 90 minutes of the game as Marcos Rojo scored a late winner for Argentina which saw Nigeria eliminated.