‘I could not let 180 million Nigerians down’ – Mikel John Obi played World Cup clash despite devastating news hours beforehand


Former Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi has revealed he played in his side’s World Cup clash against Argentina last week despite being told his father had been kidnapped just beforehand.

The 31-year-old also told the Guardian he could not reveal it to anybody at the time in what must have been an experience more traumatic than many of us can imagine.

Mikel spent eleven years on the books at Chelsea and remains much loved by Blues fans for his tireless performances down the years.

Now in the Chinese Super League with Tianjin TEDA, Mikel was back on the big stage this summer for Nigeria as they suffered a disappointing early exit from the World Cup.

Mikel, however, has much bigger things on his mind now as he has detailed how kidnappers contacted him about his father, who is now in hospital.

The midfielder says he still felt he could not let his country down, and took to the pitch as Nigeria were ultimately beaten by Argentina to drop out of the group.

‘I played while my father was in the hands of bandits,’ Mikel told the Guardian. ‘I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kick-off to tell me what had happened.

John Obi MikelMikel John Obi during his time with Chelsea

‘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 not.

‘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 capture.’