Thursday, 09/11/2023 15:46

Maybe the bravest man in football

Liverpool FC’s Luiz Diaz appeals for the release of his father after scoring against Luton Town on Sunday. AFP Photo

Paul Kennedy

I’m hoping that by the time this column gets printed, Liverpool FC’s Luiz Diaz has received the very best possible news.

On October 29, Díaz's mother, Cilenis Marulanda and father, Luis Manuel "Mane" Diaz, were kidnapped by armed men on motorcycles at a gas station in their hometown of Barrancas, Colombia.

His mother was rescued by police a day later, with a "major military search" announced to locate his father.

Word is that the culprits, Colombia's National Liberation Army, the ELN, are very close to releasing Mane, and it could be as soon as the next 48 hours.

Unable to travel to Colombia due to obvious safety concerns, Diaz has stayed training with Liverpool. On Sunday, he even played, albeit just for the final 15 minutes of their 1-1 draw away at Luton, with Diaz scoring the equaliser for his team.

If there is a trophy for bravery in the Premier League, surely it can only go to one player.

How on earth could he be strong enough to be in the squad, play, and score a vital goal, not knowing the fate of his father?

After scoring, he raised his Liverpool jersey to reveal a message on the tee-shirt he wore underneath that read: ‘LIBERTAD PARA PAPA’, which translates as FREE MY DAD.

I just can’t imagine what he’s going through, and this isn’t the first time a player has had to deal with what Diaz is going through right now, far from it.    

Carlos Tevez, the Argentinian forward, had to deal with the kidnapping of his father back in 2014.

In 1994, the father of the legendary Brazilian player Romario was kidnapped for a day, before being rescued in a police raid.

Argentinian brothers Diego and Gabriel Milito had to deal with the kidnapping of their father back in 2002. Both of the players had to fork out to pay the ransom.

Daniel Montenegro, another Argentinian, was kidnapped in Buenos Aires. After several hours of confusion, he was released unharmed. 

Alfredo Di Stefano, the legendary Real Madrid player, was kidnapped during his stay in South America with his team. Venezuelan Armed Forces didn't manage to free him for more than 72 hours. 

In 1999, Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos' father was kidnapped for more than 10 days.

And former Cruz Azul coach, Ruben Omar Romano, was kidnapped for a whole 65 days. The FBI had to get involved to free him when the event took place back on July 19, 2005. 

Only this week, in light of the recent kidnapping of Mane Diaz, former Chelsea star John Obi Mikel has talked about how his father wasn’t just kidnapped once, but twice.

Sheer madness.

I’m sorry to say, all of the above, with the exception of John Obi Mikel, are related to South America. Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina.

South America has a reputation of producing the world’s very best footballers, and long may they continue to do so, I just hope the authorities in these countries can get a grip and do more to protect their families. VNS

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