John Obi Mikel, the captain of Nigeria’s World Cup team, revealed Tuesday that he played against Argentina last week knowing his father was being held for ransom by kidnappers back home, information he kept to himself because they had threatened to shoot his father “instantly” if he contacted police.

In an interview with Kwese ESPN, Mikel said he received a call four hours before kickoff demanding N10 million ($28,000 in U.S. dollars) for the return of his father. He told neither his coach nor the Nigeria Football Federation and played in the 2-1 loss to Argentina. He spoke only after his father was released after what authorities described as a “gun duel” nearly a week after his capture.

“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,” Mikel said. “I had to shut it out of my head and go and represent my country first. 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.”

Pa Michael Obi was en route to a funeral in southeastern Nigeria when he was kidnapped June 26; he and his driver were rescued Monday by police. In a statement, Superintendent of Police Ebere Amaraizu described the rescue. “The abductors started calling to demand a ransom of N10 million before police operatives acted on intelligence information and swooped on them. In the process of the rescue, a gun duel ensued between police operatives and the kidnappers which forced the hoodlums to abandon their victims inside the forest and they were promptly rescued.”

Sources said that Mikel’s father had been tortured and required stitches for his wounds. A tweet by the Enugu State Police described him as “hale and hearty” despite the ordeal.

Mikel’s father was kidnapped once before, in 2011, and was released after 10 days. An adviser to the player tells Kwese ESPN that security around the family will be ramped up.

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