Liverpool striker Luis Diaz had a tearful reunion Tuesday with his father, freed last week after a 12-day kidnapping ordeal at the hands of Colombia’s ELN guerrilla group.
Diaz was back home in Colombia to join the national team ahead of a World Cup qualifying match against Brazil Thursday in the seaport city of Barranquilla, where the meeting with his dad, Luis Manuel Diaz, was arranged. The pair embraced in tears, according to images distributed by the Colombian Football Federation (FCF).
Luis Manuel Diaz, 56, wore a black T-shirt with the words: “No more kidnapping.”
“After 12 days deprived of freedom, this is the first contact of the player with his father and the rest of the family, who lived long moments of anguish,” the FCF said on its website with a photo of the two men and the footballer’s young daughter on her grandfather’s knee.
Luis Manuel Diaz and his wife Cilenis Marulanda were abducted by armed men on motorcycles at a gas station in their home town of Barrancas near the Venezuelan border on October 28.
Marulanda was rescued hours later and a massive search operation by ground and air was launched for her husband.
The ELN, which is in peace negotiations with the government and is party to a six-month ceasefire that entered into force in August, described the kidnapping by one of its units as a “mistake.”
Last Thursday, after days of intense negotiations, the rebels handed Diaz over to humanitarian workers in a mountainous border area.
The following day, he told reporters at his home in Barrancas how he was made to walk “too much,” with very little sleep, at the hands of his kidnappers.
On Saturday, police said they had arrested four suspects in the crime.
Luis Manuel Diaz is the founder and amateur coach of the only football academy in Barrancas, where his son showed promise from a very young age.
Diaz Sr is credited with aiding the meteoric rise of his son, who has played for his country 43 times and is the first Indigenous Colombian to make it to world football’s top echelons.
Acquaintances have told AFP he sometimes sold food he cooked himself to pay for his son’s trips to Barranquilla, where he had his debut.
The young winger known as “Lucho” later played for Porto, and now plays for Liverpool.