After London’s Arsenal soccer club denied that a former player is now an Islamist extremist in Syria who features in a recent video, British and other intelligence agencies believe they have identified the man.
The agencies said the masked man shown holding an AK47 rifle and railing against Western culture and Bashar Assad is Celso Rodrigues Da Costa, who lived in east London with his two brothers, the Guardian reported.
There were internet rumors that said the man was 29-year-old soccer player Lassana Diarra, who played for Arsenal and other English teams. Diarra denied he had ever been to Syria.
Arsenal denied Da Costa had ever played for them, but conceded that he may have attended some of the club’s youth programs.
The footage, which was posted by FiSyria.com and later uploaded by MEMRI, shows a masked man identified as Abu Isa al-Andalus, and according to FiSyria, he joined the al-Qaeda-linked rebel organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The site said he’s originally from Portugal, where he “grew up with [soccer star Cristiano] Ronaldo,” and that “he played for Arsenal in London” but then “left football, money and the European way of life to make the path of Allah.”
In the video, al-Andalus rails against Western culture and calls on viewers to either come fight the Assad regime or send help to the rebels.
“If you have family in these countries it’s a must for you to put your children in the kaffir schools,” he says. “Who is going to teach your children? It’s going to maybe be a gay, maybe a drug dealer, maybe a pedophile. It’s very important for you to protect your children. Allah says they are the worst of creatures.”
“We do not recognize the individual from the published clips and we don’t have any record of a Mr. Abu Iza Andalusi representing the club at any level,” an Arsenal spokesman was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying two weeks ago.