Hundreds of millions of us on this planet love soccer. We can’t get enough of it. Sometimes, even I forget that it’s just a game and that what happens on the soccer pitch should be taken for what it is.
Let me say this again: Soccer is just game.
Often, however, especially considering the sport’s appeal to all economic classes around the world, too much emphasis gets put on big time soccer. Multi-millionaire players often come from modest upbringings, granting dreams of similar success to millions of hopefuls. Underprivileged masses must look at the riches of those gifted few and wonder, “Why not me?” or “Why him?”, or worse, “How can I get my piece of that?”
And occasionally, in the most horrifying way, those who wonder the latter question take everything too far and scare the life out of the rest of us.
The father of Chelsea star and Nigeria international John Obi Mikel, a stalwart in the London-club’s midfield, has been abducted in his native Nigeria. Apparently, he has not been seen since Friday night. The player was told about the incident prior to the team’s match against Stoke City, but elected to play because he didn’t know enough about the situation and didn’t want to let the team down.
Since, it has been confirmed the player’s father is not merely missing. On Monday, Mikel issued a television message pleading for help finding his father’s whereabouts.
Via Sky Sports News and ESPN Soccernet:
“I have always tried to help the country in every way I can, playing for the country, serving the country. This is the time for the country to help me in this situation,” Mikel told Sky Sports News. “I am just going to say, whoever has got my dad, whoever knows where my dad is, should please contact me and hopefully he should be released.”
This is so unsettling. All that can be hoped for is that Michael Obi is returned unharmed. Mikel, whose family lives in the central region of Nigeria, admitted he always worried something like this might happen, but that their neighborhood was a safe place.
Apparently there has been violence in the region of late between Muslim and Christian residents, and kidnapping, though mostly of foreigners, has happened before, though primarily in the oil-rich south.
What makes this situation so appalling and depressing is that Mikel, who was listed in a Forbes magazine survey in June as the seventh highest-paid African player in Europe, is not the only world-class footballer from a third-world country that must worry about these types of problems. Problems that unfortunately, in this world we live in, are very real and extremely frightening.
This is how a nation repays a man that has given so much back to his community and played through injuries for his national team?