Colombian footballer accusedof machine-gun shooting spree
Saturday 28 June 2008
As a player in the world's top football leagues, Faustino Asprilla was unpredictable; there were overhead kicks, outlandish goal celebrations and incredible turns. Off the pitch, it was a similar pattern; there were car accidents, dalliances with porn stars and stormy encounters with managers.
And it seems the star Colombian who graced two World Cups and became a hero to fans in England, Italy, Brazil and Argentina, is leading a similarly unconventional life in retirement.
For Asprilla – or Two-goal Tino as he was known during a spell with Newcastle United in the 1990s – has been charged with going on a shooting spree with a machine gun near his farm in south-west Colombia. The 38-year-old is under house arrest on charges related to illegal possession of weapons and criminal damage, his lawyer, Carlos Sanchez, said. He is accused of spraying a security checkpoint with gunfire in April. The post was hit by 28 bullets but nobody was hurt. He denies the charge.
Security guards say Asprilla reacted violently when they refused to allow his friends, three women and a bodyguard, past a checkpoint. Asprilla was reported to have said: "Seven people who were with me have not yet testified, and so I think it's a bit bit premature for me to be convicted.
"In fact, it reminds me of a movie I saw called Minority Report, in which people end up in jail even before you've committed the crime or even been tried."
Asprilla, born in the impoverished city of Tulua in 1969, has been guilty of firearms offences before. In 1995, he fired eight shots in the air outside a disco in his homeland. That earned him a suspended sentence. But the furore afterwards led to him having 24-hour protection by armed guards.
It was partly with his own personal safety in mind that he left to play for Italian team Parma, before a fall-out with manager Nevio Scala took him to England.
After struggling for a work permit because of his firearms conviction, he won the hearts of fans on Tyneside with memorable goals and was voted the sixth-best player in the world in 1996. The same year he was thrown off the Colombia World Cup squad for criticising his coach's tactics.
He quit international football in 2000 and played for minor clubs in Italy, Brazil, and Mexico, and won widespread publicity for his appearance in a reality TV series and a nude photo-shoot for a Brazilian magazine.
He almost did a deal to play for League 2 team Darlington as a favour to that club's chairman George Reynolds, a millionaire later jailed for tax evasion. Asprilla was paraded on the club's pitch in front of a packed crowd. But the day he was to sign the contract he fled, and has not been back to the UK since.
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