Italian Soccer Player Stages His Abduction

By Victor Westerkamp

A bizarre event played out last weekend in a Sicilian amateur soccer contest. At the final game of his career, a soccer player in Italy decided to go out in style by riding off into the sunset in a helicopter. He was placed into the chopper by masked men waving guns.

On March 30, 2019, Ignazio Barbagallo quit Citta Di Viagrande, a team in the third division of Sicily’s local league. The Italian came onto the field as a substitute in the home game against Nebrodi. Shortly later, a helicopter promptly landed on the field. A few armed men then walked onto the field and seemingly abducted Barbagallo.

Just weeks before, he had teamed up with a cameraman to turn his farewell into a big show. The stunt came as a surprise to at least some of the other players. They realized what was going on after they saw the sign one of the abductors left on the field, which translates as “elimination squad for finished players.”

Officials at the league were not amused. His club was fined $220 and is suspended until May 31. On top of that, they suspended Barbagallo until June 30 for leaving the field without permission, arranging the helicopter landing without authorization, and creating a dangerous situation, according to FOX Sports Italia. That penalty, though, doesn’t appear to hurt him too severely since he’s retiring.

Most YouTubers, however, seem to be delighted by Barbagallos’ stunt. Someone cheered: “You’re just a legend. Great Ignazio!,” Another praised in jubilee: “Everyone talks about you, hahahaha, even the very important papers on football!” There was no real discontent.

Kidnapping: a Serious Problem

In the book “Kidnap for Ransom: Resolving the Unthinkable,” published in 2009 by author Richard P. Wright, it outlined that since the year 2004, soccer players in Brazil initially enjoyed a godlike status, such as Robinho, a star of Brasil’s national soccer team and major European clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester City, and AC Milan. But after the kidnapping at gunpoint of his mother in 2004―she was only released after one month and the payment of a hefty ransom―a steep rise in abductions of soccer players had set in, making soccer players easy game for kidnappers in Brazil.

On March 29, 2019, VOA News reported that many soccer teams in Cameroon were relocating from English speaking areas to safer regions in the country after a surge of kidnappings and threats of violence against soccer players and coaches. The attacks were performed by separatists as part of a campaign in 2016 to win independence for the English-speaking regions in the country.

ESPN reported that in 2015, Niko Kollias and Ani Okeke Ewo, both senior students at the University of Rochester, Britain, were wrongly targeted as payback for a drug-related robbery. These crimes were allegedly committed by another UR student who, like the two, played for the Yellowjackets soccer team. The two innocent students were horribly tortured for 40 hours on end while their henchmen feasted and partied, drinking beer and smoking marijuana.