River, Gimnasia win
Kidnapped brother of Riquelme freed unharmedPosted: Thursday April 04, 2002 12:55 PM
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- The teen-ager brother of Argentine soccer star Juan Roman Riquelme was freed by kidnappers Thursday, ending an abduction drama that began just over 24 hours earlier.
Christian Riquelme, 17, was released on a desolate street before dawn in a rundown section of Ramon Mejia some 20 miles west of Buenos Aires, police said.
The teen-ager, a budding soccer talent like his older brother Juan Roman of the celebrated Boca Juniors club, was unharmed. A police commissioner, Anibal Degastaldi, said an unspecified amount of money was paid, but gave no details.
"A ransom was paid," the police commissioner told reporters.
Juan Roman Riquelme, who is widely considered one of the best midfielders in South American soccer, had no comment on his brother's release.
Although the elder Riquelme made no statements, a family friend said the Boca Juniors star conducted the negotiations leading to his brother's release.
Juan Ramon "took charge of the situation" and was in contact with the captors by cellphone during the ordeal, according to the family friend, Leonardo Sosa, who spoke with local reporters.
Sosa told reporters that details of the teen-ager's release were finalized in the early hours Thursday prior to a ransom dropoff and Christian Riquelme's ensuing release.
Police said the younger Riquelme was taken by police for a medical checkup just after his pre-dawn release, then sent home to rest. "He is safe and sound after an emotional reunion with his family," said Degastaldi.
Police, meanwhile, have reportedly made two arrests in connection with the kidnapping but they made no statements on those local reports or whether progress had been made in solving the kidnapping.
The abduction cast a spotlight anew on rising crime that has accompanied a four-year-old recession here. Occasional ransom kidnappings have joined street robberies, bank heists, carjackings and other common crime that have made public insecurity a top concern in Argentina alongside the economic crisis.
The kidnapping of a popular soccer star's younger brother drew attention across Latin America and Europe where Juan Roman's playmaking for Boca Juniors has been watched by fans of Argentine soccer.
At 23, Juan Roman is the idol of Argentina's best known team and last December was rated the best soccer player in the Americas in a poll of sports journalists. He is reportedly sought by some of Europe's top teams.
Shaken by the abduction, Riquelme did not play Wednesday night when Boca Juniors defeated rival Huracan 2-0 in top-division play. During the match, Boca fans worried about the kidnapping chanted "Riquelme, Riquelme! Boca stands beside you!"
Police have given few details of the kidnapping.
But local reports quoted neighbors as saying that Riquelme was with three friends in the suburb of Don Torcuato, when a car drew up, armed men got out and ordered the group to the ground.
They spent a few seconds identifying the youths, before picking out Riquelme and ordering him into the car. They then drove off.
According to the reports, Riquelme's family had received several calls Wednesday, from the kidnappers.
Christian Riquelme stars for a professional team in Argentina's lower division league.
River, Gimnasia record wins at top; Boca goes third
BUENCompetition leaders River Plate and second placed Gimnasia both recorded wins Wednesday, to stay clear of the pack at the top of Argentina's Clausura league.
River beat Belgrano 2-1 and Gimnasia grabbed a 1-0 triumph against Colon, while Boca Juniors won 2-0 away at Huracan to move third.
After 11 of this season's 19 rounds, River have 26 points, Gimnasia 23, Boca 21 and San Lorenzo, Banfield and Racing are tied on 18 points.
However the day was overshadowed by the news that the teen-age brother of Boca's star player Juan Roman Riquelme, had been kidnapped. That led to the 23-year-old Argentine international missing his side's win, in order to be with his family.
Meanwhile on the pitch, neither of the top two produced much quality soccer to lift the feeling of gloom caused by the kidnapping.
River had to come from behind against a Belgrano side that ought to have proved a walkover.
Ramon Diaz' league toppers certainly had a lot to prove after picking up just two goals in their last four matches.
Yet once again, River, played poorly against a well organized Belgrano outfit.
The Cordoba side took the lead four minutes in, Mauro Obolo was put through in the area, he chested the ball down and clipped a neat left-footed shot past River keeper Angel Comizzo.
River drew level in the 25th minute when Belgrano keeper Juan Carlos Olave let Victor Zapata's shot slip out of his hands and Esteban Cambiasso was on hand to flick the rebound home.
Fourteen minutes later, River were ahead after Sergio Castillo tripped Fernando Cavenaghi inside the box and Andres D'Alessandro slipped home the penalty kick.
Belgrano should have leveled in the 61st minute, when Claudio Husain fouled Felipe Desgastizabal in the box. But Sebastian Brusco's spot-kick was well saved by Comizzo.
In the closing minutes, River almost made it three, when Cavenaghi somehow failed to convert from a yard out and with the keeper stranded. In the end though, River were happy just to have won.
Meanwhile in La Plata, second-placed Gimansia scored a win against Colon, with an 84th minute strike from Claudio Enria, his fifth of the season.
In a game dominated by Colon, which went close through Claudio Graf, Javier Delgado and Rodolfo Aquino, Gimnasia came to life only in the final minutes.
With six minutes remaining, Enria stole the ball from a Colon defender on the edge of the area, entered the box and whipped a low, angled drive inside Colon keeper Leonardo Diaz's left post.
In the 89th minute, Gimansia could have doubled their lead when the referee awarded a free-kick after a handball in the area. But Facundo Sava failed to hit his ninth of the season, striking his shot poorly.
The performance of the day however, went to Boca, who scored a comfortable 2-0 win away to Huracan, despite the absence of Riquelme, striker Guillermo Barros Schelotto and defender Nico Burdisso and the grim atmosphere surrounding the game.
Boca took the lead in the 11th minute. Sebastian Battaglia picked up the ball deep in the Huracan half and threaded a pass through to Ariel Carreno. He shook off his marker and planted a fierce, curling shot into the roof of the net from just inside the area.
Both sides had chances as the game worn on, with Huracan looking more dangerous after Boca were reduced to ten men, when Carlos Tevez was dismissed for his second yellow card.
But in the 87th minute, the visitors wrapped up the win, Hector Bracamonte heading home Omar Perez's corner kick.
After the game, Boca coach Oscar Tabarez praised his players for their showing in difficult circumstances.
"Boca took advantage of its chances and so earned its win ... It is a hard moment we are going through. I hope things work out."
The rest of the 11th round results were:
Argentinos Juniors 1-0 Independiente, Rosario Central 0-3 Velez, Banfield 2-1 Talleres, Union 0-2 Nueva Chicago, Lanus 1-0 Newell's, Racing Club 0-0 Estudiantes, San Lorenzo 1-0 Chacarita.