MEXICO CITY: Mexican footballer Alan Pulido was rescued hours after he was kidnapped in his hometown after the striker managed to call police while his captors were distracted, authorities said Monday.
Pulido, who plays for Greek giants Olympiakos, had a bandage on his right hand when he appeared briefly at a news conference in the early hours of Monday in the crime-plagued northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
The 25-year-old player, who was wearing a multicolor sleeveless shirt and shorts as he stood alongside Governor Egidio Torre Cantu, told reporters that he was “very well, very well, thank God.”
The abduction put a spotlight on the murders and kidnappings afflicting the state, where thousands of people have disappeared and drug cartels have fought brutal turf wars for years.
Pulido, who played for Mexico in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, was kidnapped by four men late Saturday after he left a party in his hometown of Ciudad Victoria, authorities said. Officials earlier said six gunmen were involved.
“During a moment of inattention by the captors in the place where he was located, he was able to make a phone call and ask for help, giving his location and we were able to immediately rescue the victim,” Tamaulipas state prosecutor Ismael Quintanilla told reporters.
One man was arrested during the operation, Quintanilla said, adding that the suspect was from the neighboring state of Veracruz and was a member of one of the gangs operating in Ciudad Victoria.
Federal police chief Enrique Galindo said Pulido, 25, had a small injury but was otherwise “safe and sound” after police swooped in to save him.
The player underwent a medical exam after his rescue.
Galindo told Radio Formula that there was “no violence” during the rescue. There had been a negotiation but no ransom was paid, he said.
The kidnappers apparently kidnapped Pulido because he appeared to be wealthy “or because it could give the kidnappers a nice profit,” Galindo said.
Pulido was part of the Mexican national team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, though he did not see any playing time. He was not called up for the Copa America Centenario tournament, which starts this week.
– Crime-plagued state –
His rescue is a major success for the authorities in one of Mexico’s most dangerous states, with the population regularly terrorized by kidnappings and gunfights in the streets of large cities.
Some roads are so dangerous that the federal police sometimes escort travelers in protective convoys.
More than 5,500 people have disappeared in the state, out of a total of around 28,000 reported missing across Mexico.
Local media reported that Pulido had accompanied his girlfriend to a party in Ciudad Victoria, and that their car was intercepted by a convoy of vans that blocked the road and forced him out.
The young woman was released almost immediately and did not know where he was taken.
– Olympiakos thankful –
Pulido’s kidnapping shocked his current and former clubs.
“Alan is safe and healthy with his family,” Olympiakos said on Twitter.
“We thank each and everyone of you for your concern and prayers in these difficult times,” the club said.
Pulido played in the Greek Cup final on May 17 — his team lost to AEK, 2-1 — before leaving for Ciudad Victoria.
He signed a four-year contract with Olympiakos last season. He scored four goals in six matches this season.
He previously played for Mexican club Tigres of Monterrey.
His abduction brought back memories of the kidnapping of Argentine manager Ruben Omar Romano in Mexico City in 2005. Romano was rescued after 65 days of captivity.
Romano was coaching Mexico City club Cruz Azul at the time of his kidnapping.