MEXICO CITY: Mexican security forces have rescued football star Alan Pulido, who was found “safe and sound” hours after he was kidnapped in his crime-plagued home state of Tamaulipas, authorities said early Monday.
Pulido, a former national team forward who plays for Greek club Olympiakos, declared he was “very well, very well, thank God” as he appeared alongside Governor Egidio Torre Cantu at a brief news conference.
The 25-year-old player was wearing a multicolor sleeveless shirt and shorts as he appeared before the cameras.
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.
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, following a huge police and military operation, 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.
Certain 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 the car they were in 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.
Pulido’s kidnapping shocked his current and former clubs as well as his team-mates.
Prior to his rescue, officials with Olympiakos said on Sunday they were in constant contact with the family, as well as with Mexican Ambassador Tarcisio Navarrete Montes de Oca, who told them that Mexican authorities were doing “everything possible.”
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 has played in six matches this season, scoring four goals.