Nicknamed "El Pitufo," Colombian athlete Anthony de Avila became the latest football star arrested after being linked to drug trafficking.

According to France24, drug enforcement officers handcuffed the 58-year-old Colombia's former football striker on September 20 in a piazza in the center of Naples in Italy, wearing a scarlet club shirt.

The Smurf of Colombia Faces Drug Charges

During his arrest, Anthony de Avila was wearing the colors of the controversial Colombian club, America de Cali, where he became a football star.

De Avila was nicknamed "El Pitufo" or the Spanish for "Smurf" because he's only five foot one inch tall. Despite his height, De Avila was a class act on the field. 

He played a total of 54 times for his country Colombia. He also spent most of his club career in America and remained the club's all-time top scorer with a total of 208 goals.

Davide Della Cioppa, the police officer who coordinated the arrest, told AFP that the Italian police had been alerted after they received information indicating the presence of South Americans in the country to meet with local drug traffickers.

Della Cioppa noted that when he was asked where he was staying in the area, De Avila claimed to be a tourist. He said he was staying at the subway station, which aroused suspicions from the police officers.

After taking him to a police station, Italian authorities discovered that De Avila had been sentenced to prison in 2004 for charges related to drug trafficking.

Fabrizio de Maio, De Avila's lawyer, said the former striker claimed that he was innocent and did not know he was convicted and wanted. However, the lawyer knew that his client was in a tight corner and that avoiding a 12-year prison sentence would be impossible.

Football fans in the world were shocked about the arrest and conviction of the former international footballer. However, it is, in fact, the latest chapter of the story between football and drug trafficking in Colombia.

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Colombia's Drug Trafficking Trick

Based on the UN report, Colombia produced 1,228 tons of the drug in 2020. Colombia's drug trafficking gained large profits, and the illegal trade money has penetrated not only beauty pageants, the equestrian world, and politics but also the world of football.

In the 1980s and 1990s, journalist Ignacio Gomez, the co-author of the book "Los amos del juego" (The Masters of the Game), told AFP that owning a team "was an asset" for some capos, and others also considered it as a stepping stone for popularity.

Gomez added that it was considered a natural way of laundering illegal money. In 1999, U.S. authorities has placed America de Cali in a list of companies connected to drug trafficking.

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This article is owned by Latin Post

Written by: Jess Smith

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