Kidnapped! Wilson Palacios, Robinho, Romario and the football families targeted by gangs
Published 00:00 07/02/09 By By Ann Gripper, Mirror.co.uk
Tottenham recruit Wilson Palacios was hardly a household name when he arrived on loan at newly promoted Birmingham at the start of last season.
His performances may have been quietly impressive for the Blues, but it was the kidnapping of his brother Edwin, then 15, which thrust his name into the limelight.
On 30 October 2007 five armed men took Edwin from the family's home in La Ceiba, Honduras, and bound and locked the boys' parents in a room.
Palacios returned home to help the family pay a £125,000 ransom - and initial supports suggested his brother had been set free. But sadly the teenager is still in the hands of the kidnappers and has only been allowed telephone contact with his family.
Kidnappings are a major problem in many South American countries, and Colombia's best-loved radio talkshow is Heartbreak Hours, when family and friends of the kidnap victims can record messages for their loved ones.
And the Palacios family are not the only ones to become targets after their name has become famous through football.
1) Robinho's mum Marina Silva de Souza
The Manchester City star was playing for Brazilian side Santos when his mum was targeted in 2004.
On November 6 gunmen jumped over a wall at a relative's home in a Sao Paulo suburb where Marina was enjoying a barbeque and bundled her into the boot of their car.
Robinho endured 40 days of agony before Marina was released after he paid a ransom - believed to be £50,000.
2) Fidelis Rogerio, Luis Fabiano and Grafite's mums
Three more Brazilian footballers' mums were taken in the three months after Marina's release.
First to be taken was the mum of Sao Paulo striker Grafite, kidnapped in a town near Campinas. She was found the next day, but it was unclear whether a ransom had been paid.
The next vicim was Brazil and Porto striker Luis Fabiano's mum Sandra Helena Clemente. She was abducted in Campinas while visiting a friend near her home. Her ordeal lasted for two months, until police stormed the kidnappers' hideout.
And then the mother of Fidelis Rogerio, Ines Fidelis Regis, was also snatched in Campinas, three armed gunmen leaving her daughter tied up. Ines was rescued by police three days later.
3) Marinho's mum Alice Nazare
The crime wave continued two months later when kidnappers disguised themselves as florists to take Corinthians defender Marinho's mum hostage.
Alice, 62, was snatched from her home in the poor Aparecida housing project in Santos. She was held for two months until the family reportedly paid a $20,000 ransom.
4) Romario's dad Edevair Souza de Faria
In May 1994, in the build-up to Brazil's ultimately successful World Cup campaign, Edevair Souza de Faria, father of star striker Romario, was taken as he left the bar he owns in Rio de Janeiro.
The kidnappers rang the family demanding a $7million ransom but the authorities hoped Rio's underworld would get a gang they rated as amateurs to release their hostage.
Brazilian newspapers published a message from Romario appealing for his dad's release and the police received a tip-off the following day.
When they raided a Rio housing complex they found Romario's dad sitting on a mattress watching television - provided by his kidnappers the previous evening so he could watch his son play against Real Madrid.
It seems de Faria's kidnappers were football fans, giving him steak, beer and cigarettes as well as the TV.
5) Ricardo Oliveira's sister Maria de Lourdes Silva de Oliveira
In 2006 kidnappers targeted the family of Brazil striker Ricardo Oliveira, who had moved from Betis to AC Milan the previous month.
Two hooded men broke into his sister's home in Sao Paulo, gagged and tied up Oliveira's brother-in-law and eight-year-old nephew, and kidnapped his sister.
It was 160 days before Maria was released when police received an anonymous ti-off about where she was being held.
6) Kakha Kaladze's brother Levan
Days after Kaladze's £11million move to AC Milan from Dynamo Kiev in 2001, Georgian gangsters kidnapped Levan, a medical student, in a Tbilisi suburb.
The bandits sent the family a video demanding a £350,000 ransom but the Georgian government refused to pander to the kidnappers.
Dad Karlo was so frustrated by the authorities' lack of action he threatened to set himself on fire outside a ministerial building.
Kakha and Georgia team mate Shota Arveladze initially refused to play for the national side until Levan was released, but with the boycott having little effect the pair returned to the international set-up.
Levan's body was found in a shallow grave on the outskirts of Tbilisi five years later, seemingly shot one month after he had been seized.
7) Joseph Yobo's brother Norum
The Everton defender's big brother Norum was seized at gunpoint in Nigeria as he made his way home from a nightclub.
Two other men taken with Norum were quickly freed but with Joseph vice captain of the national team, the kidnappers demanded a £5,000 ransom.
It is not known whether the money was paid, but Norum was released after 12 days.
8) David Suazo's brother Henry
Benfica and Honduras striker Suazo was playing for Cagliari in 2002 when his younger brother was snatched by four armed men.
The 19-year-old, who played for Honduras side Marathon at the time, was released a fortnight later.
9) Juan Roman Riquelme's brother Christian
In April 2002 the 17-year-old was captured by criminals in Buenos Aires.
Juan Roman, then at Boca Juniors, and his family agreed to stump up a $160,000 ransom to get the kidnappers to release Christian.
Continued kidnap threats hastened Riquelme's switch to Barcelona six months later - and he took most of his family and friends with him.
10) Leonardo Astrada's dad Ruben
A six man gang rammed Ruben's Ford Focus in June 2003 and, armed with rifles, hauled the 61-year-old lift mechanic into the boot of their car.
They took him to a safe house and demanded a $300,000 for his release.
On the final day of River Plate's season Leonardo wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the message "Papa we're waiting for you" during a lap of honour before the match, while team mates had shirts saying "Courage Leo". He was taken off 12 minutes into the match, leaving the pitch in tears.
Nearly four weeks after Ruben was taken, the criminals abandoned their bolthole and Ruben escaped, detectives saying the kidnappers knew they were close to being tracked down.
The ones that got away
- In 1999 two gunmen held up a car - but let the driver go when they recognised him as Pele.
- In 2003, the sister of twin players Guillermo and Gustavo Barros Schelotto (who played for Boca and Central respectively) was attacked by criminals when she arrived home with her two children in La Plata City. She was saved when her father chased the raiders away.
- Also in 2003, there was a failed attempt to snatch the brother of Boca Juniors boss Carlos Bianchi. The kidnappers did not reckon with their would be victim's wife, who called a live radio show and screamed: "Some people have just tried to kidnap my husband," as listeners heard a commotion in the background for several minutes.
- In 2001 Barcelona player Ivan De La Pena foiled a kidnap attempt - which ended with a police officer shot in the stomach and an escaped convict injured in a car chase. De La Pena spotted the kidnappers and managed to shake them off by racing his Porsche round an underground car park. So that's why footballers have fast cars.
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