Premier League legend Faustino Asprilla has revealed how he has fled his home-town in Colombia after receiving death threats on his family.
The Guardian today relays quotes from the ex-Newcastle United star which detail how he has become the target of a criminal gang in an extortion plot. The 45-year-old is said to have been threatened by four men in two cars on Tuesday this week, and their demands were made perfectly clear.
“They told me to contact their chief because if I didn’t they would kill my family and me,” Asprilla was quoted as having said.
"He also issued a statement on his official website saying he was “helpless and hurting” at being forced out of his home town “by the back door”.
“Today is one of the saddest days of my life. I had to leave my own land, Tuluá, as a victim of extortion by a group of anti-socials,” he said.
“My family was threatened in front of me, my father, my sisters. Helpless and hurting, I took the decision for the safety of my loved ones to leave Tuluá.
“I dedicated my life to representing my country abroad, to bringing joy to my Colombian people, when I could finally rest, to recover the time lost with my [family], I’m forced to leave by the back door of my own town.”
Asprilla rose to fame during a football career which saw him play for both Newcastle and Parma - the latter in two spells - as well as a host of other South American clubs.
Perhaps his most notable period was when he called St. James’ Park home, as he quickly found rapport with the Geordie fans. His highlights there included a hat-trick during a 3-2 win over Barcelona, and he bagged himself nine goals over the course of three seasons.
What happens next remains to be seen, with Asprilla clearly fearing for the lives of both him and his family. Gang culture in South America is a world-renown problem, and it appears that for the time being the ex-player’s home-town of Tulua is far from safe.