The father of Liverpool’s Luis Diaz has been released by kidnappers, the Colombian Football Federation has confirmed.
Luís Manuel Díaz had spent 13 days in captivity after being snatched by the guerrilla group National Liberation Army, also known as the ELN, at a petrol station in Colombia near the border with Venezuela.
Luis Diaz’s mother was also kidnapped in the incident but she was rescued within hours after police set up roadblocks.
The Liverpool forward and Colombia international scored an emotional late equaliser at Luton on Sunday before revealing a message underneath his shirt which read ‘Libertad Para Papa’ (Freedom for Dad).
Diaz had returned to Colombia ahead of Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest the previous week and missed the Carabao Cup victory at Bournemouth, before informing Jurgen Klopp he would like to be considered available for the trip to Luton. At that point there was an indication negotiations between officials and the radical left-wing rebels had been positive.
Diaz is starting for Liverpool in their Europa League game in Toulouse, which kicks off at 5.45pm on Thursday.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp told TNT Sports before the game: “It looks like Luis [Diaz] is really happy, thumbs up all of the time so it looks very good but I’m not the one to release anything.
“Timing wise it couldn’t have been better.”
Asked if Diaz is in a great headspace, Klopp replied: “Yes, you ask him, he wants to [play], so good and he will.”
What happened to Diaz’s parents?
Luis Manuel Diaz and his wife Cilenis Marulanda were snatched by armed men on motorbikes at a petrol station in the town of Barrancas, in La Guajira, near the border with Venezuela, on Saturday October 28.
She was rescued within hours after police set up roadblocks – but the whereabouts of her husband was unknown.
Otty Patino, who was leading the peace talks, said at the time: “We demand that the ELN releases immediately Mr Luis Manuel Diaz and we say as of now that they are entirely responsible to secure his life and integrity.”
The following Tuesday, the winger begged his father’s captors to release him – as his mother, uncle and other relatives took part in a vigil.
He posted an Instagram story with details of the event and the caption: “Bring your candle to light the light of hope – free him now!”
Special forces were deployed to search for Mr Diaz, with air and land patrols trawling a mountain range that straddles both Colombia and Venezuela – as Colombia’s police director vowed to use every agent to find him.
Officials said they could not rule out the possibility that he has been smuggled over the border – meaning he would be out of reach of Colombian police. A reward worth $48,000 (£39,000) had been offered for information that helps police locate Mr Diaz.
However, on Thursday November 9 he was handed back over to his family. Reports say he was handed over to the UN humanitarian commission, the church and medical personnel in the Serrania del Perija region.
Statement: Colombia FA confirms the release of Luis Diaz’s father
The Colombian Football Federation thanks the National Government, the Military Forces and the National Police, as well as all the institutions and officials that made the release of Luís Manuel Díaz, father of our player Luís Díaz, possible,” read a statement released on Thursday.
“Football as a sporting discipline symbolizes talent, dedication, teamwork and the intrinsic values of human beings. In Colombia it must continue to be a benchmark for entertainment, healthy competition, unity and joy.
“Therefore, we insist on the need to maintain this activity, as well as those who are involved in it, in the sporting and administrative part and their families, outside of any scenario other than sports.
“Behind a ball, the dreams and illusions of boys and girls, young people, women, men and adult soccer players, their loved ones and an entire country roll.
“Football is passion in peace. Let no one ever think of attacking that reality again.”
The Colombian president Gustavo Petro added: “long live freedom and peace”.