By Paul Giblin
MOSCOW, July 3 (Xinhua) -- Nigeria star John Obi Mikel revealed on Tuesday that he was told his father had been kidnapped just hours before he captained the side in their final World Cup Group D match against Argentina on June 26.
Mikel told The Guardian newspaper he was in the Nigeria team bus on the way to the stadium in St Petersburg when he received a call from a family member saying his father had been taken by kidnappers demanding a ransom.
"I had to suppress the trauma. I took a call four hours before kick-off to tell me what had happened," he explained.
"I played while my father was in the hands of bandits," Mikel told the paper.
Th player admitted he had been distraught, but that "in the end, I knew that I could not let 1150 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 staff and only a very tight circle of my friends knew," continued Mikel.
The player informed the paper he was told the kidnappers "would shoot my dad instantly if I reported to the authorities or told anybody," and that he had kept the kidnap a secret because "I did not want my issue to become a distraction on the day of such an important game."
Mikel's father was kidnapped in southeast Nigeria and although he was subsequently released, Mikel confirmed that he had been tortured by his captors.
"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," he said.