November 05, 2012

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Brazilian police said Monday they are investigating the possible kidnapping of the younger sister of Brazil striker Hulk.

Authorities said 22-year-old Angelica Aparecida Vieira de Sousa has been missing since Monday afternoon after being left in front of a restaurant in the northeastern city of Campina Grande. A person who was with her at the time told police that he thinks she was kidnapped.

Campina Grande police officer Kalina Suerde told The Associated Press that it is too early to say whether Sousa was kidnapped despite widespread reports in Brazilian media.

Suerde said an initial call to Sousa's cell phone was answered by a man impersonating her husband.

"She is missing, nobody saw anybody taking her, but we are checking the reports that she may have been kidnapped,'' she said.

Family members told authorities that nobody had made contact to request a ransom or give any other information about her whereabouts, but investigator Marcos Paulo later said that her relatives asked police to stay away from the case, which he said could indicate that a contact was made.

"We are investigating, there are indications that it could be a kidnapping, but we still don't know for sure,'' he said.

It wouldn't be the first time a relative of a famous Brazilian player was kidnapped.

In 1994, Romario's father was abducted and spent seven days in captivity before being released unhurt.

Striker Robinho's mother was kidnapped for more than a month in 2004, and a year later it was Luis Fabiano's mother who spent several weeks in captivity. Also in 2005, the mother of former Brazil striker Grafite was taken by criminals and found a day later. The sister of former Real Betis forward Ricardo Oliveira was kidnapped for several months in 2006. None of them were hurt.

The 26-year-old Hulk moved from Portugal's FC Porto to Russia's Zenit St. Petersburg in September in a deal reportedly worth ?55 million, becoming one of the highest ever transfers for a Brazilian player.

Police said Hulk, who is in Russia, was aware that his sister was missing. It wasn't clear if he was returning to Brazil. Calls to his press office were not immediately returned.

Hulk has six other sisters. Like many of Brazil's top players, he came from a relatively poor family which was able to significantly improve their circumstances after he became a well-paid player in European football.

The powerful striker has been constantly picked for Brazil's squad and was one of the three overage players included on the team which finished with the silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics. The competition was played with under-23 squads but each nation could use three older players.

He was in the squad selected for Brazil's final friendly of the year, against Colombia on Nov. 14 in the United States, but was expected to be dropped from the team because of a muscle injury sustained while playing for Zenit over the weekend.

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