Former Super Eagles captain John Obi Mikel has opened up on his father’s kidnapping in 2018 and how Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich offered to send special forces to rescue his father.
Mikel’s father Pa Michael Obi was kidnapped in 2018, two hours before Nigeria clashed with Argentina at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, but the former Chelsea star went along and played the match without informing his teammates of his father’s ordeal.
The 36-year-old Nigerian icon won 89 caps for Nigeria, played in two World Cups and helped the Super Eagles win the 2013 AFCON before announcing his retirement from international football in 2019. He was speaking after the kidnapping of Luis Diaz’s parents in Colombia – with his mother quickly released but his father still being held hostage.
The Chelsea legend opened up on how he received a phone call from family just two hours before that all-important match.
Speaking in an interview on TalkSPORT, Mikel recalled one of the toughest moments of his life.
“My dad got kidnapped while I was playing for the national team at the World Cup 2018 in Russia and we were about to play against Argentina [in the final match of the group stages],” the former Nigeria international told TalkSPORT.
“Two hours before the game, I got a phone call from my brother saying that my dad had been kidnapped for the second time in Nigeria.
It was the second time he had been kidnapped; the first time was in 2011, when he was held for ten days.
“He was kidnapped for the first time, and I spoke to the kidnappers, and they demanded lots of money from me, which I did eventually pay before my dad got released.
“But the second time happened while I was playing for my country, and I got this phone call from my brother saying that Dad had been kidnapped again for the second time.
“That was shocking. The first time was shocking, but the second time was even more shocking because I was about to go into one of the biggest games of my life.
“Just knowing that my dad has been kidnapped again was heartbreaking.
“I couldn’t leave the room. I couldn’t tell anybody. I was alone in the room for about 30 minutes, thinking what would I do? Shall I tell the manager? Shall I tell my teammates? Or should I make an announcement?
“But we’re about to go into the biggest game of our lives. We’re about to play against Lionel Messi and Argentina.
“So I thought about it. I was like, okay, you know what? I’m going to keep quiet. I called my mum and my brothers; everybody was crying on the phone.
“They were saying no, you shouldn’t go out and play because you won’t be able to perform well.
“I took time on my own, and I decided to go out there and perform. I’m going to go out there and play.
“So I didn’t tell anybody. I went on the pitch, and I played. Sadly, we didn’t win the game, and then after that, I told everybody.
“The manager and some players were almost in tears in the dressing room. They said you should have told us and shouldn’t have played.”
Mikel made 249 Premier League appearances for Chelsea, which ended when he left Stamford Bridge in 2017.