Fears are growing over the safety of the Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi's father amid suggestions that he is being held by kidnappers in his native Nigeria.
Michael Obi, who runs an inter-state transport company, has not been seen or heard from since he failed to return home from work last Friday in Jos, the capital of Plateau state. Calls to his mobile telephone apparently went unanswered before the device was unreachable from Saturday but, while no ransom demands have as yet been received, there are concerns that he has been abducted.
Mikel was informed of his father's disappearance on Saturday morning and played in Chelsea's draw at Stoke City on Sunday, with his family back in Nigeria "hopeful" that Obi Sr will be found safe and well. "It's been tough for the young man," said the player's agent, John Ola Shittu. "The family in Jos reported [Obi Sr] missing at the police station, as expected, but we're taking all necessary measures to find him. We've told John to be brave and to stay calm.
"He is totally devastated. We were not sure whether to tell him before the game. But after speaking to the manager [André Villas-Boas], and [the Chelsea sporting director] Mike Emenalo, we agreed that he had a right to be informed of such a serious incident. He was under a lot of stress, but he showed a lot of character and mental strength to play against Stoke."
Kidnappings, more often of figures associated with the oil industry, are a common occurrence in Nigeria but high-profile footballers and their families have been targeted. In July 2008, the elder brother of the Everton defender Joseph Yobo, Nornu, was abducted in Port Harcourt. He was released some 12 days later though it is unclear whether a ransom was ever paid.
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