Imagine you’re about to live out one of the biggest moments of your life.
Now imagine that mere hours before said event, you receive an anonymous phone call saying a member of your family has been kidnapped for ransom. You’re not allowed to say anything to anyone — including authorities — or that family member would be killed.
That was the case for Nigerian soccer star Mikel John Obi before Nigeria’s June 26th World Cup match against all-time great Lionel Messi and the rest of the Argentinian squad. Obi’s father, Pa Michael Obi, was abducted for the second time in seven years.
What would you do? Would you have played in the game, or would you have drawn attention to the situation by not playing. Obi decided to play.
Mikel spoke to the Guardian about the situation:
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.
The group that kidnapped the elder Obi — who have still not been identified — demanded a ransom of 10 million Naira, which equates to almost $28,000.
“Thankfully, my father was safely released on Monday afternoon,” Obi told the Guardian. “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.”
As said earlier, the elder Obi had been kidnapped before in 2011. The Guardian reported in 2011 that “police are now working on the assumption that Obi Sr was targeted given his high-profile and wealthy son.” Obi’s father was eventually released, only to be re-kidnapped seven years later.
While there is no word on who was culpable in the most recent kidnapping, Islamic terrorist group and one-time ISIS collaborators Boko Haram have been known for kidnapping people for ransom in order to fund their actions. The group hasn’t claimed responsibility for Obi’s kidnapping.