The wife of missing Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti has made an emotional public appeal for help in finding him, five days after he disappeared without warning.
A visibly upset Rachele Mura told a press conference that she has not seen or spoken to her husband since last Wednesday evening, when he told her he was "going to meet up with twenty-two friends."
"He wouldn't tell me what he was doing or where he was going," a tearful Mura said, "Only that he'd be gone some time. He seemed anxious and distracted, and he made some strange remarks about Tahiti. At first I didn't want to admit it was possible, but now I'm prepared for the worst."
"I think he might be playing in the Confederations Cup."
Marchetti's parents, Marisa and Paolo Marchetti, pleaded for their son to come home, or at least get in touch and let them know he was safe and not at the Confederations Cup.
"Ever since Federico told us he wanted to be a footballer, we've lived with the dread that one summer's day he might be forced to travel halfway round the world to compete in FIFA's twelfth most prestigious international tournament," said a pale Marisa Marchetti.
"If the worst has happened, and Federico is at the Confederations Cup, son, if you hear this message, we want you to know that we're thinking of you constantly, and we haven't forgotten about you, even if everybody else in the world has."
Police sources confirmed that an investigation was underway to establish whether Marchetti might have travelled to Brazil, though they warned that finding out whether any individual player is taking part in the Confederations Cup would be next to impossible.
"Short of keeping every grass field in Brazil under 24-hour surveillance for the next month or so, there is literally no way we can be sure if Marchetti is there," said Interpol spokesman Pietro Calcaterra.
"Only a tiny handful of people know what happens at the Confederations Cup, if it indeed exists," he added, warning that there has never been an independently verified sighting of a Confederations Cup game.
"All the evidence is purely circumstantial. I like to think of it as football's chupacabra."
Ms. Mura said she was keeping her spirits up by reading about footballers who are thought to have played at the Confederations Cup without suffering any permanent damage.
"I have to believe that Federico will return stronger from the Confederations Cup, and that it won't mark the beginning of the end of everything good in his life, like it did for Adriano, or Dani Guiza, or Mohamed Shawky, or Kevin Kuranyi, or Andrea Dossena, or Steve Marlet; oh sweet Christ there's no hope!"
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