This article is a colloborative effort of Nick Cellucci, Kahla Manning, Jeanna Contino, and A. Zoe Baldwin.
A former professional soccer player from Brazil was kidnapped and beheaded on Monday, October 28th.
According to UOL Noticias, Joao Rodrigo Silva Santos, 35, was apparently kidnapped at 7:45 p.m. Monday outside of his health food store in Rio de Janiero, where two men ordered him into a vehicle. The following morning at 6 a.m., his wife of ten years, Geisha Silva, 31, found his severed head sitting in a bag on her doorstep in the Realengos neighborhood with his eyes and tongue cut out.
Neighbors living nearby reported hearing a woman screaming, ‘My God it’s Joao! It’s Joao’s head!’
Some question if Santos’ wife’s job as a social worker in Rio’s Pacification Unit, which is working to try to take favelas (shanty towns) back from drug lords, had anything to do with his murder. Police have not established any such connection, but are now investigating the horrific crime.
Friends and family are stunned by the news.
“From what I know, he didn’t have any enemies and neither did his wife,” said Santos’ brother-in-law.
At Bloomsburg University, many students’ reactions to this story seem to be the same. BU senior Ellie Rabuck said, “I can’t even imagine what his wife is going through. I hope they find the person or people responsible and get them in jail immediately.”
Eric Passeretti, a junior at BU, was shocked to hear what happened to the ex-soccer player. “This has got to be the result of drug lords. I don’t know who else would go to such lengths of gouging out his eyes and cutting out his tongue,” said Passeretti. “Regardless, it’s all disturbing and thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
When first hearing and reacting to this story, every student interviewed had a shocked and disgusted look on his or her face. Alison Mack, a senior at Bloomsburg University, was one such person. She said, “I can’t believe this actually happened. It sounds like it came out of a movie. I feel awful for Santos’ family and hope they find out who did this as soon as possible.”
Santos played professional football in his native country of Brazil as well as in Sweden, Switzerland and Honduras. His professional career began three years after he began playing for the local Bangu club at the age of 16.
Brazilian football is often linked to gang activity, and plenty of other similar incidents have occurred over the years. This past July, 20-year-old referee Otavio da Silva was stoned and dismembered by angry fans before they put his head on a stake, according to BBC News. This was after he fatally stabbed a player for refusing to leave the pitch.
Many other kidnappings have also effected top Brazilian footballers such as Romario and Robinho, who have both had loved ones taken by gangs in an attempt to extort huge ransoms.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup competition and the influx tourists that come with it are just under eight months away from arrival. Two weeks before Santos’ murder, Brazil’s largest drug cartel promised a “World Cup of terror” according to the Daily Mail. This world cup is under great scrutiny by the Brazilian public. According to The Telegraph, a teenager was recently killed during a million-strong protest against the competition, which sees major funds spent on stadium arenas instead of on the nation’s poor.