Jurgen Klopp has always hailed the intangibles football has to offer. “You cannot win without tactics, but the emotion makes the difference,” he once said. “Life in our game, that’s important.”
Luis Diaz scored one of the most emotive goals of Klopp’s long Liverpool reign on Sunday evening. Coming off the bench with his side trailing 1-0 away to newly promoted Luton Town, Diaz climbed above Jacob Brown to direct Harvey Elliott’s delivery beyond the dive of Thomas Kaminski in the 95th minute.
The goal may have earned Liverpool a Premier League point but it was far more poignant for Diaz in a week that has been marred by the kidnapping of his parents back in Colombia.
While his colleagues hurriedly fished the ball out of Luton’s net, Diaz unveiled a message on his undershirt which simply read: “Libertad para Papa.” Freedom for Papa.
The Colombian forward had been left out of Liverpool’s last two matches after Diaz’s mother and father were stopped by gunmen on motorbikes and kidnapped in the Barrancas area of La Guajira on October 28.
Diaz’s mother was rescued after the Colombian army intervened but his father, Luis Manuel Diaz, remains missing. Police officials in the country are considering the possibility that Diaz Sr was smuggled across to Venezuela, with the border between Colombia and its neighbour close to the region in which he was snatched.
Ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Luton, Diaz’s first game back in Liverpool’s squad, Klopp provided the latest update, cautiously offering: “Negotiations are ongoing, but it is positive. All the signs he gets as I understand it are very positive. That is why he wanted to be part of the team and he could come on as well.
“From that point of view, I have no issue,” Klopp added, “but nobody can imagine how something like that feels. On the training ground, he has been fine and that is why he is here.”
A delegation of the Colombian government claimed on Friday that it possessed “official knowledge” revealing that the abduction had been conducted by “a unit belonging to the ELN”. The ELN – Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional, National Liberation Army – is a left-wing rebel group that has been active since 1964.
ELN representative Juan Carlos Cuellar announced on Thursday that Diaz’s father would be freed “as soon as possible” in a community meeting, a video of which was seen by Reuters.
An overwhelming swell of public support for Diaz and his family in Colombia has materialised in the form of mass protests on the streets. The government have matched the mood, deploying 230 elite police and army commandos which are aided by a Black Hawk helicopter and an airplane equipped with heat-detection sensors.
For Diaz, he has been abundantly clear about what he wants. “Freedom for Papa”.