Super Eagles and Chelsea legend John Obi-Mikel opened up on the heartbreaking time his father was kidnapped in 2018 just hours before playing the biggest match of his career.
Mikel’s dad, Pa Michael Obi, was held captive on the eve of Nigeria’s clash with Argentina at the World Cup in Russia.
It was the second time he had been kidnapped, the first time was in 2011 when he was held for 10 days.
The Chelsea legend opened up on how he received a phone call from family just two hours before that all-important match.
In a wide-ranging interview with Jim White and Simon Jordan on talkSPORT, Mikel recalled one of the toughest moments of his life.
He said: “My dad got kidnapped while I was playing for the national team at the World Cup 2018 in Russia and we were about to play against Argentina [in the final match of the group stages].
“Two hours before the game I got a phone call from my brother saying that my dad had been kidnapped for the second time in Nigeria.
“He was kidnapped for the first time and I spoke to the kidnappers and they demanded lots of money from me, which I did eventually pay before my dad got released.
“But the second time happened while I was playing for my country and I got this phone call from my brother saying that dad has been kidnapped again for the second time.
“That was shocking. The first time was shocking, but the second time was even more shocking because I was about to go into one of the biggest games of my life.
“Just knowing that my dad has been kidnapped again was heartbreaking.
“I couldn’t leave the room. I couldn’t tell anybody. I was alone in the room for about 30 minutes, thinking what am I going to do? Shall I tell the manager? Shall I tell my teammates? Or should I make an announcement?
“But we’re about to go into the biggest game of our lives. We’re about to play against Lionel Messi and Argentina.
“So I thought about it. I was like, okay, you know what? I’m going to keep quiet. I called my mum and my brothers, everybody was crying on the phone.
“They were saying no you shouldn’t go out and play because you’re not going to be able to perform well.
“I took time on my own and I decided that I’m going to go out there and perform. I’m going to go out there and play.
“So I didn’t tell anybody. I went on the pitch and I played. Sadly, we didn’t win the game and then after that, I told everybody.
“In the dressing room, the manager and some of the players were almost in tears. They were saying you should have told us and you shouldn’t have played.”
Luis Diaz is going through a similar situation at the moment with both his parents kidnapped in Colombia.
His mother has been rescued, but his father is still being held captive.
Mikel revealed Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich offered support to him at the time, and praised Liverpool’s response to the current situation with Diaz.
“Chelsea were very supportive,” the former midfielder added. “I remember Roman [Abramovich] saying do you want me to send people over? Because I know if I send people over, I can get your dad out. I was like, how are you going to do this?
“He said don’t worry about that. Just let me, if you want that option, and I can do it.
“And I’m happy to see that Liverpool are very supportive. I must give credit to Liverpool for what they’re doing.”
Mikel continued: “I can relate to Luis Diaz and what he’s going through. This kind of situation is where you have nothing to do.
“You just have to wait because they will call you. They will demand for this and they will demand for that. They will say if you don’t do what we want, we’re going to shoot your dad. We’re going to kill him.
“I had my dad on the phone crying on the phone and saying can you give them what they want because I’ve been beaten up here and they’ve got a gun on my head every time saying they’re going to kill me?
“I managed to pay lots of money to get my dad released.”
Luckily for Mikel, his father was released and he is fine now, but had a message of support he wanted to give to the Liverpool star.
He said: “ I know exactly what you’re going through and I hope he stays strong. I know it’s a tough time for him as a player. I know what his family as well are going through.
“You have your brothers, you have your mum, you have your sisters and what they will be going through is heartbreaking.
“My message to him is to stay strong and do all you can to make sure that your dad is released.”