An engineer working in a violence-ravaged part of West Africa has told an extraordinary tale of how the mere mention of Lionel Messi saved his life.
28-year-old engineer Santiago Lopez Menendez was working near Kontagora, in north-west Nigeria, on an agricultural project when he was kidnapped last Wednesday.
The Argentine, who had been working for Flour Mills of Nigeria helping local farmers plant soya and corn in the region, when a group of kidnappers steamed up in a truck brandishing automatic weapons.
They grabbed Santiago and bundled him into the van, and driven off by his captors and held for three days, denied food, water and rest, and being beaten savagely.
Though his captors spoke almost no English, Santiago realised that they thought he was American – and he believed that he was being maltreated because of it.
Santiago quickly tried to explain to them that he wasn’t American, but his attempts to do so fell on deaf ears until he started repeating the name of “Messi, Messi, Messi”.
Extraordinarily, his captors stopped beating him, and his treatment improved. Then, thankfully for Santiago, Flour Mills paid the ransom that the kidnappers had demanded, and the engineer is now back at the Argentine embassy with his brother Jorge and his girlfriend Alexandra Perkins.
Though still very weak and frail he sent a message to the world via his brother who spoke to the Clarin newspaper: “Thank you Messi, mentioning your name saved my life.”
By Toby Keel
29 June 2015 10:02