Colombians demand football boycott to force Diaz's father's release

Colombians demand upcoming World Cup qualifier against Brazil is CANCELLED unless Liverpool star Luis Diaz’s father is released – as terror group behind his kidnapping announce they are ‘initiating his release process’

  •  Brazil’s Romario attempted the same act in 1994 and saw his father released
  • A quick release is unlikely as the group seek financial remuneration for Diaz Snr 
  • Big debates on Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal on It’s All Kicking Off podcast 

Colombians are demanding the suspension of their country’s upcoming World Cup qualifier clash against Brazil unless the captors of Liverpool star Luis Diaz’s father release him. 

Colombia’s Ambassador to the UK Roy Barreras threw his weight behind the campaign from London on Friday night as he insisted the November 17 match should not go ahead unless Luis Manuel Diaz is a free man by that date. 

Brazil star Romario famously called a press conference and threatened to boycott the national side before the 1994 World Cup when kidnappers snatched his dad and demanded $7million (£5.6m) for his release. 

The gang responsible freed him within 48 hours and Romario went on to lead his country to its fourth World Cup title. 

The ELN, the left-wing insurgent group behind the latest horror kidnap in Mr Diaz’s home town of Barrancas on Saturday afternoon, has announced it is ‘initiating’ the release process. 

Luis Manuel Diaz, the father of Liverpool star Luis Diaz, was kidnapped in Barrancas a week ago

The hunt to find Diaz Snr and his captors has been intense and far-reaching in both Colombia and on the Venezuelan border

Brazil star Romario saw his own father kidnapped ahead of the 1994 World Cup after threatening to boycott the national team (pictured that year)

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It has pinned responsibility for the abduction on a regional unit called the Northern War Front and said his promised release was motivated by the fact he was the ‘relative of a great sportsman all Colombians love.’ 

But the statement attributed to the ELN, and signed by a Northern War Front commander called Jose Manuel Martinez Quiroz, has triggered concern about its authenticity because it is dated November 2. 

Its existence emerged late on Friday in Colombia and government experts are still said to be trying to verify whether it is bona fide. 

Overnight Roy Barreras gathered together nearly 100 compatriots including Brighton footballer Jorelyn Carabali, a centre back for the Colombian women’s national team, to lead calls for the suspension of the Colombia-Brazil clash if Luis Manuel Diaz is still being held captive in just under a fortnight’s time. 

Shouting ‘Liberen Luis ya’ – Spanish for ‘Free Luis Now’ in a video he posted on X, formerly Twitter, he wrote in an emotional message alongside the footage where he referred to the footballer by his nickname of Lucho as he is better known in his homeland: ‘From London we demand the ELN release of Lucho Diaz’s father before November 17 and if they don’t demand Colombia doesn’t play the qualifier match against Brazil until he is freed. 

‘We have bought together soccer players, coaches and foundations dedicated to football as an instrument of peace to demand the release of Luis Diaz.’ 

The ELN, branded a terrorist organisation by the US government and the EU, has claimed it wasn’t aware one of its factions was behind the kidnap until the Colombian government blamed them and promised late on Thursday Luis’s dad would be released as soon as possible before the official statement emerged. 

A female guerrilla fighter known only by her alias Patricia has been identified in Colombian media reports as the woman who orchestrated Luis Manuel Diaz’s kidnap from a petrol station in Barrancas. His wife Cilenis Marulanda was also snatched but was released hours later. 

The Colombian police and military services joined forces to comb through towns and jungle

A wellspring of support for Diaz Snr has sprung up around the country since last Saturday

The player, nicknamed ‘Lucho’, is a much-loved member of the Colombian national team

One of the reasons critics have cast doubt on the idea of a quick release is that the Northern War Front, the Frente de Guerra Norte in Spanish, has a representative at the ongoing peace talks between the ELN and the government which began after the guerrilla group called a unilateral ceasefire during the Covid pandemic. 

He has been named by Colombian media outlet Semana as Bernardo Tellez, which has claimed his presence among ELN representatives at the negotiating table shows the insurgents have no real desire to free Luis Diaz’s father unless they get paid lots of money to do, or the group’s leaders have little control over their regional units. 

The little that has emerged about Patricia, alongside a grainy photo of her in military fatigues, points to her taking up arms in 2006 and rising through the ranks of the ELN to become leader of the December 6 Front and subsequently a senior member of the Northern War Front. 

She is said to have spent 26 years fighting for the violent guerrilla organisation which finances itself from criminal practices including extortion and kidnapping. 

Analysts were quick to point out that unlike the centrally-led FARC, the other rebel group in Colombia fighting the government, the ELN operates as a federation with regional units enjoying high levels of autonomy and often implementing different strategies according to their local needs. 

Colombia’s president Gustavo Petro, speaking on Friday from Washington during an official state visit, confirmed the kidnappers had so far not come good on their release promises and warned Luis Manuel Diaz’s situation was becoming ‘very dangerous.’ 

He said: ‘The ELN’s authorship means the ELN today is responsible for the life of the father of Luis Diaz. 

‘It has committed an act that contravenes the peace process. 

‘I have to express my most profound rejection, not only for having kidnapped Luis’ dad, but because in the ensuing developments, they have not been able to free him. 

‘There is an expressed wish on the part of the ELN leaders to free him as soon as possible.’

But the hours are passing, and as this goes on in time, the situation in which Mr Diaz is in becomes very dangerous. 

On Tuesday, Diaz’s mother Cilenis Marulanda – who was also taken hostage on Saturday but quickly released – led a march demanding her husband’s freedom

Hundreds of community members in Barrancas wore white and lighted candles in tribute

A reward of close to £40,000 is being offered for any information around Diaz Snr’s location

The director general of the Colombian police, William Rene Salamanca, spoke to Diaz Jnr last weekend

The player was pictured in training on Friday after taking compassionate leave in the wake of the kidnapping

Mr Petro revealed on Thursday he had spoken to Luis Diaz personally to reassure him about the government’s efforts to free his dad. The footballer spoke to the director of Colombia’s National Police force shortly after his father was kidnapped on Saturday. 

William Rene Salamanca Ramirez told the anguished striker every effort was being made to find the missing 58-year-old. 

On Friday the 26-year-old winger was pictured training with his Liverpool team-mates after missing the two matches against Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth following his father’s kidnapping. 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has said he will let the footballer decide for himself when he is ready to play again. The team plays against Luton on Sunday. 


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