Mexico City: Mexican authorities have rescued football star Alan Pulido following his kidnapping in his crime-plagued home state of Tamaulipas, with the player declaring early Monday he was “very well” despite the ordeal.
Pulido, a former national team forward who plays for Greek club Olympiakos, had a bandage on his right hand as he appeared alongside Governor Egidio Torre Cantu at a brief news conference, several hours after his abduction following a party.
The 25-year-old player was wearing a multicolor sleeveless shirt and shorts as he stood before the cameras, telling reporters he was “very well, very well, thank God.”
Pulido was rescued “safe and sound … shortly before midnight” on Sunday by state and federal forces, the Tamaulipas government said in a statement, without providing details about the operation.
Pulido underwent a medical exam, the statement said.
Torre Cantu told reporters that the authorities were going over the investigation and would provide more details later on.
“The most important thing is that he is here, he’s with us,” the governor said, following a huge police and military search operation by land and air.
– Dangerous state –
Family members told authorities that six armed men snatched Pulido in his hometown of Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas, as he returned from a party.
The government statement said the kidnapping took place on Saturday night, contrary to previous reports that it had happened at dawn on Sunday.
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.
His rescue is a major success for the authorities in one of Mexico’s most dangerous states.
Tamaulipas is plagued by violence linked to drug cartels, 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, but said she had no idea where Pulido had been 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.
Prior to his rescue, Olympiakos officials said on Sunday they were in constant contact with the family, as well as with Mexico’s ambassador.
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.
His former Mexican club, Tigres of Monterrey, had also voiced its “solidarity” with Pulido’s family following his kidnapping.
His abduction brought back memories of the kidnapping of Argentine player Ruben Omar Romano in Mexico City in 2005. Romano was rescued after 65 days of captivity.