Alan Pulido, a striker for Mexico's national soccer team and Greek top side Olympiakos, was reportedly kidnapped early Sunday in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of the violence-plagued northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas.
The abduction was initially confirmed to local media by state officials and to sports website MedioTiempo by Pulido's brother Armando, who is also a professional soccer player.
“Yes, it's true that Alan was kidnapped,” Armando Pulido told MedioTiempo. “He disappeared in the morning and we have the full support of the governor.”
Federal and state forces mounted an operation Sunday to find 25-year-old Pulido.
"We have information that he was intercepted by armed persons and since then his whereabouts are unknown," said state Attorney General Ismael Quintanilla.
According to local media reports, 25-year old Pulido was pulled from his car on a highway near the Los Troncones ecological reserve, not far from his home in Ciudad Victoria.
Pulido attended a party with his girlfriend on Saturday evening and left shortly before midnight, reports say. His car was then intercepted by several SUV's and an unknown number of armed occupants pulled the soccer player from his car. His girlfriend was reported to be with him, but left unharmed.
State authorities have so far declined to give any details about the abduction, but have told local media that the special Anti-Kidnapping Group of the state attorney general's office is investigating Pulido's disappearance. They have not given a motive for Pulido's possible kidnapping.
The Tamaulipas Coordination Group that includes federal and state security agents said on its Twitter account that it was hunting for the player. Reporters in the city saw an unusual deployment of troops and police in the streets, while at least two police or military-style helicopters flew overhead.
Pulido, who was born in Ciudad Victoria, was signed last year by Olympiakos, the current soccer champions of Greece and the nation's most successful club. He is a former striker for Tigres, a top side based in Tamaulipas' neighboring state of Nuevo León. On it's Twitter account, the team expressed solidarity with the player's family "in the difficult situation they are experiencing."
— CLUB TIGRES OFICIAL (@TigresOficial) May 29, 2016
Pulido was member of the Mexican national team that participated in 2014's World Cup in Brazil and capped a total of six matches for El Tri, in which he scored four times. He was not called up for the Copa América tournament, set to start next week.
Tamaulipas, hugging the border with Texas and the north-eastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, has been one of the most violent states in Mexico in recent years. An important transit point for illicit drugs and human trafficking, the state has been a focal point for Mexico's violent drug war especially since the Los Zetas and Gulf Cartel criminl groups began a bloody turf war five years ago.
Shootings and kidnappings are daily occurrences in the state and have recently been reported to be on the rise. Mexico's federal government has deployed federal police and soldiers to curb the violence in Tamaulipas, which in 2010 was the stage for the infamous massacre of 72 Central American and South American migrants.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.