Santiago: Chilean soccer star Arturo Vidal crashed his Ferrari and was arrested for drunk-driving casting a shadow of controversy over the Copa America tournament his country is hosting.
Chilean media said Vidal and his wife had left a casino and were returning home when the accident happened late Tuesday. The football star, no stranger to controversy, scored two goals for Chile 24 hours earlier, but denied he was to blame. It was not immediately known whether Chile would punish the key player.
Arturo Vidal's car after the crash. Pic/ AFP
The front of the 28-year-old Juventus midfielder's Ferrari was left mangled by the accident on the outskirts of Santiago.
Officials said he collided with at least another car. Vidal suffered "minor injuries" and his wife, Maria Teresa Matus, "moderately serious injuries," police colonel Ricardo Gonzalez told reporters. The footballer and his wife were briefly taken to hospital and Vidal then kept in custody. "Because he was driving under the influence of alcohol ... (Vidal) is being held," Gonzalez said. He refused to discuss the level of alcohol in Vidal's blood. The player posted a video message on YouTube to proclaim his innocence in the accident.
"Today, I had a car accident. It was not my fault. I'm fine, my family's fine. Thank you for everything," Vidal said, giving a thumbs-up. Twitter users posted photographs of Vidal's car, which was badly mangled on the driver's side. The airbags had deployed. Vidal, a key member of the Chilean side seeking to win the Copa America for the first time, is the tournament's top scorer with three goals from two games.
He hit a penalty in the opening victory against Ecuador last Thursday and two more goals in Monday's 3-3 draw with Mexico in Santiago. Chile are top of Group A and meet Bolivia in their final first round match on Friday. The team were given Tuesday off by coach Jorge Sampaoli after Monday's game.
The Chilean team management now face a tough decision over Vidal because of his past record. He is known as "King Arturo" to his adoring Chilean fans and "The Warrior" at Juventus because of his tough style of play. The combative midfielder is no stranger to controversy.
In 2011 he was among five players excluded from Chile's squad preparing for World Cup qualifiers after they turn up for training late and drunk. He was welcomed back to the fold after apologizing. This season Juventus imposed a club record 100,000 euro ($112,000) fine after Vidal was allegedly involved in a drunken brawl outside a Turin nightclub.