Head coach of the Super Eagles, Gernot Rohr, has said he was “very surprised” to learn that captain John Mikel Obi, played their last Group D game at the 2018 World Cup against Argentina, after hearing his father had been kidnapped.
Mikel Obi’s father, Pa Michael Obi, was kidnapped on the day of the game on June 26, with the kidnappers threatening to end his life if word got out.
They had demanded $28,000 as ransom.
The abductors contacted Mikel just hours before kickoff and told him to remain silent; so he played without telling even Rohr of the situation.
Rohr only found out after Pa Michael was released on Monday.
“I was very surprised to hear this. I did not know about it because he did not tell me. But it shows that he has good mental strength to be able to play in this situation. He is a real leader,” he told Kwesé ESPN.
However, Rohr said that even if he had known, he would have left the decision about playing to Mikel Obi.
“If I know about it, I would let him decide. No pressure. I have full confidence in him to make the best decision for himself, his family and his country.
“It is shocking that such a thing happens to anybody. And to somebody who represents his country,” the German added.
Mikel was quoted to have said about his father’s abduction; “I can confirm I had to suppress emotional trauma to lead Nigeria out against Argentina last Tuesday, June 26 in Saint Petersburg.
“Four hours before kick-off, I received a call from Nigeria that my father Pa Michael Obi had been kidnapped for the second time. He was on his way to a funeral in south-eastern Nigeria from Jos when he was abducted along the Makurdi-Enugu expressway.
“I was emotionally distraught but had to make a decision about whether I was mentally ready to play the game. 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 members my friends knew. I was told that they would shoot my dad instantly if I reported to the authorities or told anybody.
“And I did not want to discuss it with the coach because I did not want my issue to become a distraction to the coach or the rest of the team on the day of such an important game.
“So as much as I wanted to discuss it with the coach, I could not do it. Thankfully he is now safely released less than seven hours ago. I thank the police authorities for their rescue efforts and support from friends and family members.”