John Obi Mikel reveals horrifying moment kidnappers demanded £300,000 to release tortured dad
Mikel Obi’s dad (AFP/Getty Image)
London, July 5, 2018 (AltAfrica)-Super Eagles of Nigeria’s captain and Chelsea Legend, Mikel Obi has opened up on the terrifying phone call that told him about his kidnapped dad just hours before his nation’s crunch showdown with Argentina
DISTRAUGHT John Obi Mikel’s said his trembling fingers dialled the number the number that called him and on the line was his terrified father, beaten, tortured and crying in fear for his life, while armed kidnappers demanded £300,000 or they would shoot him.
Mikel’s trauma puts the pressure of a penalty shootout firmly into perspective.
Despite the horrific ordeal, Mikel kept it secret from his manager and team-mates and played in his country’s must-win final group match in Russia because “my father would have wanted me to”.
Now, in an exclusive SunSport interview, Mikel reveals the full torment of what he and his family went through.
“It was tough, you know, having to play the biggest game of your country’s campaign in the World Cup knowing something terrible could happen to your father.
“I was told they would shoot him instantly if I reported it to the authorities.
“My heart was pounding. My parents mean so much to me. They’ve gone through a lot to raise their children and you never want to see any harm come their way.
“Imagine having to keep all that torture, pain, stress and sadness inside of you and still go out and play football. It was killing me but I kept holding it together.
“You have young players looking up to you and millions desperately wanting a win over Argentina.
“I carried all that stuff into the game without opening up to anyone because it would have affected all the plans and focus of the team.
“I was emotionally distraught and confused, but I couldn’t let my country and 180million Nigerians down, so I braved my fears and worries. I knew on that day my father would have wanted me to give everything on the pitch for Nigeria.”
Michael Obi had been travelling from his home in the Nigerian city of Jos to the funeral of Mikel’s uncle in Enugu last week when kidnappers pounced on the Makurdi-Enugu expressway.
The criminals, all disguised as road-safety officers, stopped the driver of the Toyota Land Cruiser carrying Mikel Snr. They grabbed the driver’s mobile phone and spoke to Mikel’s brother to inform the family and demanded a £300,000 ransom — in sterling — to be paid in seven days.
Mikel’s traumatised father had been severely beaten and the ex-Premier League star was given a number he had to ring.
That call to the kidnappers came immediately after Nigeria’s 2-1 defeat had ended their World Cup campaign.
Mikel added: “It’s not the kind of conversation you want to have. I was shaken and worried for my dad.
“To have people threatening your father but you’re helpless far away in another country, is horrible.
“My father was crying when I briefly spoke to him, he was scared for his life and, at that point, the money being demanded was not the issue — I only wanted to see my father again in good health. You sit down fearing the worst and praying nothing bad happens to him.
“But he was hurt, tortured and broken during his abduction and it’s tough living with that.
“He endured all this pain and it breaks my heart. Now, I hope the bandits will be brought to justice by the authorities.
“I love my country and remain very proud to be a Nigerian. It is a great honour representing Nigeria and this sad act has not changed my dedication and desire for the country.”
After the game, Mikel, 31, flew out of Russia to arrange the ransom. According to police, only £21,000 was paid and, on Monday, a battered Michael Obi was released near an agreed spot, minus his shoes and phone, before being taken to hospital for checks.
Incredibly, this is the SECOND time he has been kidnapped.
The first was in 2011, when he was rescued by police after being held captive for ten days.
Now Mikel wants his mum and dad to move to the country’s capital Abuja.
The Nigerian captain, who now plays his football in China for Tianjin Teda, said: “I have suffered sleepless nights full of fears.
“For the second time I’ve had to live with the fears of losing my father and it is very scary. But, eventually, I could finally calm my head when he was released.
“When I heard his voice I was trembling and asking if, truly, he was fine. He mentioned the bruises and the pain, what he endured, what he went through.
“God, no one should have to go through this. It’s not about me, nor my father, no one deserves that. And it’s about time something is done in our country to secure the lives of citizens.
“It is becoming a regular occurrence and has to stop. Be you rich or poor, everyone deserves safety.”
Mikel, who spent 11 years at Stamford Bridge until he left in January 2017, added: “I believe the same love and passion we share for football should spread across our lives.
“It’s up to us all and, importantly, those in authority to help keep everyone safe. I can only thank everyone for the love and affection in the aftermath of this difficult time. When one heart is broken, it’s the heart of the country broken.
“But my love for the county is unshakeable and serving Nigeria is unconditional. It’s a great responsibility to serve my country and I hope things can be improved for us all to live happily.”
Sun Newspaper UK