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Nigeria Captain Proves World Cup's Most Dedicated

John Obi Mikel played June 26 match hours after dad's kidnapping
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 4, 2018 8:33 AM CDT
Argentina's Lionel Messi, foreground, and Nigeria's John Obi Mikel compete during a World Cup match on June 26, 2018.   (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)
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(Newser) – Facing arguably the world's best soccer player in a World Cup match is hard enough, but Nigerian captain John Obi Mikel did it hours after learning his father had been kidnapped for a second time, and without telling a soul on his team. Mikel only opened up about the ordeal Tuesday after police rescued Michael Obi and his driver, kidnapped while heading to a funeral in southeastern Nigeria on June 26. Mikel received a $28,000 ransom demand four hours before Nigeria faced off against Argentina and its star Lionel Messi in Russia, elimination ultimately coming with a 2-1 loss. "I was told that they would shoot my dad instantly if I reported to the authorities or told anybody," Mikel says, per the New York Times. Worried he'd be a "distraction" to his team, "I had to shut it out of my head and go and represent my country first."

"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," adds the midfielder, who afterward flew to his home in England to better handle the situation, per ESPN. Obi and his driver were then rescued by police in Edege on Monday. A "gun duel" with police "forced the hoodlums to abandon their victims inside the forest and they were promptly rescued," says a rep for Enugu State Police Command. Obi, who was reportedly tortured and received multiple stitches at a hospital, is now "recuperating with family," Mikel says. He's also to be placed under enhanced security in an effort to prevent his third kidnapping: In 2011, Obi was seized and severely beaten by captors who demanded $4 billion from Chelsea, his son's Premier League club at the time, before his rescue 10 days later. (Read more World Cup stories.)

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