Thursday, July 17, 2008

Joseph Yobo’s Brother Released by Kidnappers

About two weeks ago, I wrote a story about the kidnapping of Norum Yobo, the brother of Everton’s solid center back Joseph Yobo, and how incidents like that involving high-profile African players and their families have become too all-too-common in recent times. While the situation obviously didn’t look too good at the time, the good news was that more often than not, the situation was resolved peacefully — and that’s a relative term — as long as the ransom was paid.

I’m happy to report that Norum was released last night and is back safely with his family, all according to Joseph’s personal manager, John Ola Shittu. Shittu confirmed to that after spending 12 days in captivity, the majority of which were spent without the two friends who were taken at gunpoint as well, Norum is OK, at least physically. He declined to elaborate on the presumed ransom demand made by the kidnappers and how much of it was paid, but there was no reason for him to do so.

Shittu did, however, release a brief statement:

“On behalf of Joseph and the family, I want to say a big thank you to Everton Football Club. They were very supportive in every way possible, especially the chairman (Bill Kenwright), who was calling on a daily basis to find out how things were progressing.

Joseph is very happy to see (Norum), but he is still down emotionally, still shaken. Right now, he just wants to get himself emotionally ready enough to get set for pre-season training.”

At the end of the day, as much passion as we have for it and as much time as we dedicate to it, soccer is a game. There are more important things to worry about than Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer gossip or whether Samuel Eto’O will play in Uzbekistan this season. When it comes down to it, those are really only trivial topics and aren’t worth as much publicity as they get. No one I know in the media spent much time at all talking about Norum Yobo and the problems that continue to plague Africa, and this was only one of many life-or-death situations that go on daily and monthly and yearly on that continent.

I’m glad that the Yobo family has now been reunited, and hopefully Joseph, Norum, and Albert (the older brother) can go on with their lives in as normal a fashion as possible. Like I said, this was just one crisis and it’s great that it was averted, and hopefully it can serve to illuminate the ugly underbelly of Africa that much more. We appreciate the terrific talent of African players in Europe, especially in the Premier League, but tend to ignore their backgrounds and the places in which they grew up, and we can’t continue to do that.

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