MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The authorities billed it as a rescue, but Mexican soccer player Alan Pulido escaped his kidnappers by punching the one guarding him, snatching a cellphone and calling for help, a top official in the country’s violent northeast said on Monday.
State security forces located Pulido within minutes of his call from a safe house in the restive city of Ciudad Victoria in Tamaulipas state, as they were scouring the area nearby, state prosecutor Ismael Quintanilla told local radio.
The 25-year-old Mexico national team striker who also plays professionally with the Greek team Olympiakos disappeared in his hometown on Saturday night, when he was intercepted by gunmen after leaving a party with his girlfriend.
Pulido called Mexico’s emergency services around midnight on Sunday after the fistfight. He then cut his wrist trying to open a locked glass door, Quintanilla said.
“There was an exchange of blows between them,” Quintanilla said. “At some point he was able to make a call.”
Police have detained the captor, one of least four involved, who belonged to a criminal gang. It was unclear whether they were connected to the feared Zetas drug cartel, which controls much of the state.
In the early hours of Monday, Tamaulipas Governor Egidio Torre Cantu appeared on local television, flanked by Pulido, congratulating security forces for rescuing him.
The player was wearing a multicolored T-shirt and shorts and had a bandage wrapped around his right hand.
Pulido was in a “good state of health,” and was with his family after receiving medical and psychological attention.
Tamaulipas, which abuts the U.S. state of Texas, is an especially violent area of Mexico, which is grappling with grisly drug gang violence.
Pulido was a member of the Mexican national team that competed in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He has also played for the Greek team Levadiakos and the Mexican club Tigres.
(Reporting by Simon Gardner and Michael O’Boyle; editing by Dan Grebler and G Crosse)