John Obi Mikel has spoken of his devastation that his father had been kidnapped in Nigeria
-pleading with his captors to release him unharmed.
Michael Obi failed to return to his home in the city of Jos, in the country’s Plateau province, on Friday evening. In an interview with Sky Sports News on Monday, Mikel confirmed he has not been seen since then, with calls to his mobile phone also unanswered.
Though no ransom demand has yet been made, Mikel - who will be granted compassionate leave to miss this weekend’s game with West Bromwich Albion but has been advised not to return to his homeland - believes his father has been targeted deliberately.
“My family have always lived in Jos,” he said. “They will know who my father is and who his son is. All I would say to the people who have him is please let him go. He is an old man. He has not done any harm to anyone. I am devastated by this situation.
“I have always done my best to help my country, playing for the national team, serving my country. Now it is time for my country to help me. Whoever has got him, or whoever knows where he is, please contact me and hopefully he can be released."
“I have always thought something like this might happen, thought about where my family live, but in Jos it is safe. This happens a lot in the east of Nigeria, but my father might be the first in the north. It was a terrible shock. We cannot believe it has happened.”
Mikel was informed of his father’s disappearance by Chelsea’s manager, André Villas-Boas, and the club’s technical director, Michael Emenalo, less than 24 hours before the club’s opening Premier League fixture with Stoke City. After speaking with his mother, though, the player elected to take part in the game, despite his personal torment. “I spoke to my mother and she told me to go out and be strong and help the club,” he said. “My mother would have been sad with me [if I had not played]. I did not want to let the team or the club or the fans down.
"The other players did not know. I did not want them coming up to me and saying how sad they were. I told Didier Drogba [on Monday] and before the game Salomon Kalou, who is a good friend of mine. But now they will all know.”
Police in Nigeria yesterday admitted they had no details about the kidnapping. A spate of abductions have occurred in the oil-rich state in recent years, mostly in the country’s east, home of its energy industry, but relatives of footballers have also been targeted.
In July 2008, the brother of the Everton defender Joseph Yobo was returned unharmed by kidnappers after 12 days in captivity. Chelsea yesterday released a statement promising the player and his family the club’s “full support”.