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Liverpool’s Luis Díaz Begs Colombian Rebels to Release Kidnapped Dad

The insurgent group responsible for the kidnapping has said that military action in the area is delaying the release of the footballer’s father.

By Andrew Woodin
Luis Diaz reveals a shirt under his football jersey the says "Para Papa"

While nearly every young soccer player with talent dreams of the glory of making it to a top-flight team, few have that dream realized. But unfortunately for Liverpool winger Luis Díaz, his recent success coincides with a nightmare — as the Colombia native has found himself in the position of having to plead for the release of his kidnapped father. 

While Díaz’s mother Cilenis Marulanda was freed shortly after armed militants kidnapped her and her husband on motorcycles in their home town of Barrancas more than a week ago, Díaz’s father, Luis Manuel Díaz, is still being held hostage by the National Liberation Army of Colombia (ELN) — “the oldest and one of the most powerful insurgent groups in Colombia,” according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

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And yet, in the midst of enduring hell on Earth, Liverpool’s 26-year-old suited up for a league match on Sunday against Premier League newcomers Luton Town. It was a battle all day, and one Díaz watched from the bench. Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp called Díaz’s number in the 83rd minute, just three minutes following Tahith Chong netting a stunner to give Luton Town the lead and Kenilworth Road a healthy dose of pandemonium. But in the 95th minute, Harvey Elliott swung a near-perfect left-footed cross into the far post, and Díaz just got ahead of No. 12 Issa Kaboré to bury the game-saving equalizer.

Juergen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool, embraces Luis Diaz

But as beautiful of an aerial masterpiece as it was for No. 7, who had missed games against Nottingham Forest and AFC Bournemouth, it was the emotional plea featured on the shirt under his jersey that captured the hearts of millions around the globe.  

The winger’s shirt read in Spanish: “Libertad Para Papa” in all caps, which translates in English to “Freedom for Papa.”

Despite his traumatic personal life, according to Goal, Klopp was confident that the young winger was focused and ready to play in the game.

An emotional Klopp reflected on Díaz’s goal that lifted the Reds to a 1-1 draw against Luton Town while also urging the media to know that Díaz’s agonizing ordeal is not over.

“It’s a wonderful moment, but it doesn’t change the situation yet,” Klopp said. “The most important thing is that his father gets released. ... But it’s wonderful, wonderful, wonderful that he wanted to be here, and he gets that, but that’s it. For us, super important goal, and for him, very important, of course, and yes, very emotional, but that’s it.”

"We knew that he will be a threat,” Klopp continued. “We didn't know exactly how long he can play because he only had a few sessions with the team. But that is not the important part today. He scored the goal — that's wonderful — but we need to see some improvement in Colombia."

Shortly after the match, Díaz posted a heartfelt statement on Instagram, trying to motivate his father’s captors to promptly release the 58-year-old.

What has Liverpool winger Luis Díaz said about his father's kidnapping?

"Today the footballer is not speaking to you,” Díaz wrote on Instagram. “Today Lucho Díaz, the son of Luis Manuel Díaz, is speaking to you. Mane, my dad, is a tireless worker, a pillar in the family and he has been kidnapped. I ask the ELN for the prompt release of my father, and I ask international organizations to work together for his freedom."

"Every second, every minute, our anguish grows,” he continued. “My mother, my brothers and I are desperate, distressed and without words to describe what we are feeling. This suffering will only end when we have him back home. I beg you to release him immediately, respecting his integrity and ending this painful wait as soon as possible. In the name of love and compassion, we ask that you reconsider your actions and allow us to recover him.”

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“I thank Colombians and the international community for the support received, thank you for so many demonstrations of affection and solidarity in this difficult time that many families in my country find themselves living.”

Commander Jose Manuel Martinez Quiroz of the ELN has said that the insurgent group is “making efforts to avoid incidents with government forces,” according to The Guardian. “The area is still militarized, they are carrying out flyovers, disembarking troops, broadcasting and offering rewards as part of an intense search operation.”

“This situation is not allowing for the execution of the release plan quickly and safely, where Mr. Luis Manuel Díaz is not at risk,” continued the rebel leader. “If operations continue in the area, they will delay the release and increase the risks.”

“We understand the anguish of the Díaz-Marulanda family, to whom we say that we will keep our word to release him unilaterally, as soon as we have security guarantees for the development of the liberation operation.”

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