Colombians are calling for the cancellation of Colombia’s upcoming World Cup qualifier against Brazil unless the captors of Liverpool star Luis Diaz’s father release him. The demand has gained support from various quarters, including Colombia’s Ambassador to the UK, Roy Barreras, who insists that the match scheduled for November 17 should not proceed unless Luis Manuel Diaz is freed by that date.
The campaign draws comparisons to the 1994 World Cup when Brazilian star Romario threatened to boycott the national team after his father was kidnapped. The kidnappers demanded a hefty ransom, but his father was released within 48 hours, and Romario went on to lead Brazil to their fourth World Cup title.
The ELN, a left-wing insurgent group responsible for the recent kidnapping in Barrancas, Luis Diaz’s hometown, has announced that they are initiating the release process. They attributed the abduction to a regional unit called the Northern War Front and stated that the release was motivated by Diaz’s status as the relative of a beloved sportsman.
However, concerns have been raised about the authenticity of the statement attributed to the ELN, as it is dated November 2. Colombian government experts are working to verify its legitimacy.
Roy Barreras, along with nearly 100 compatriots, including Colombian women’s national team player Jorelyn Carabali, has led the calls for the suspension of the Colombia-Brazil qualifier if Luis Manuel Diaz remains in captivity. Barreras posted a video on social media, demanding the release of Diaz’s father before November 17 and urging Colombia not to play the match against Brazil until he is freed.
The ELN, designated as a terrorist organization by the US government and the EU, claimed that they were unaware of their faction’s involvement in the kidnapping until the Colombian government implicated them. They promised to release Diaz’s father as soon as possible.
A female guerrilla fighter known as Patricia has been identified as the orchestrator of the kidnapping. Diaz’s wife, Cilenis Marulanda, was also abducted but was released hours later.
Critics cast doubt on the possibility of a quick release, pointing out that a representative of the Northern War Front, Bernardo Tellez, is present at the ongoing peace talks between the ELN and the government. This suggests that the insurgents may be motivated by financial gain rather than a genuine desire to free Diaz’s father, or that the group’s leaders have limited control over their regional units.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro, speaking from Washington, confirmed that the kidnappers had not yet fulfilled their promise to release Diaz’s father and expressed concern over his safety. He denounced the ELN’s actions, stating that they violated the peace process.
As time passes, the situation becomes increasingly perilous for Mr. Diaz. President Petro revealed that he had spoken to Luis Diaz personally to assure him of the government’s efforts to secure his father’s release.
Luis Diaz returned to training with his Liverpool teammates after missing matches against Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth following his father’s kidnapping. Manager Jurgen Klopp has stated that he will allow Diaz to decide when he is ready to play again. Liverpool’s next match is against Luton on Sunday.