Chilean star Arturo Vidal and his wife Maria Teresa Matus were involved in a serious car crash on the outskirts of Santiago last night. The Juventus midfielder, who is currently in Chile representing his country as they play host to the 2015 Copa America, had been drinking at a casino earlier that night.
“The driver of the red (Ferrari) vehicle was under the influence of alcohol.” said Colonel Ricardo González, of Vidal.
Miraculously Vidal and his wife walked away relatively unscathed, both however were kept in over-night at San Luis de Buin Hospital, Santiago.
Vidal, according to the Chilean Police report was at fault for the collision, which involved two other cars and saw him completely destroy his expensive sports car.
Prosecutor Luis Pablo Cortes was quoted as telling news website Emol that Vidal was detained for driving in a “drunk state,” which under Chilean law is a more serious offence that being “under the influence” of alcohol.
It is understood that Chile’s coach Jorge Sampaoli granted his players Tuesday evening off, after a hard fought draw with Mexico the previous day. Sampaoli instructed his players to return to the team hotel by 11pm. Vidal took the opportunity to go on a drinking session at a local casino, before leaving the premises shortly before 10 pm, accompanied by his wife Matus.
The 28th year old has been in stunning form for Chile, and sits atop the competitions goalscoring chart. The team faces a pivotal group game against Bolivia Friday, and one would have to question his judgement with regard to choosing to spend his day off drinking and gambling.
If deciding to consume copious amounts of alcohol, while expecting to be in peak form 2 day later was an ill-thought out idea, getting behind the wheel of his car was reckless. Vidal put his and his wives life in danger, and that of of his fellow motorists.
Footage has today emerged from the scene of the accident, captured just as the police are arriving. It paints Vidal in a terrible light, as the preening superstar who see themselves as being above the law.
The video is obviously in Spanish, but multiple media outlets have translated the exchange as occurring more or less as follows.
Vidal: How would I be driving this shit, how could I be so stupid, don’t you think?
Police: Yes you fucked up sir, you fucked up.
Vidal: What, I fucked up? Stop talking bullshit.
Vidal: Are you going to handcuff me?
Police: Don’t make things harder than they are…
Vidal: You can handcuff me, but you’ll be fucking Chile over..
Vidal and his agent Fernando Felicevich attended court this morning in Santiago to await the judges verdict. Outside, throngs of Chilean supporters waited with baited breath for the judge to hand down his verdict. They would soon learn that their hero had escaped prison time, and the only punishment he would receive would be the loss of his Chilean drivers license. Considering Vidal lives in Italy for 10 months of the year, it doesn’t feel like the punishment fits the crime.
Vidal is Chile’s best player, and they are playing in a tournament which they have a real chance of winning. Chile are the Sweden of Europe, a team that perennially qualifies for tournaments, always have one or two extremely talented players, but usually exits the tournament early. This Chilean team however is packed with world class and could go very close to winning the Copa America.
Vidal has created an enormous moral dilemma for the people of Chile. I am sure most Chilean people would agree that driving while in an inebriated state is an abhorrent act, but I am equally sure that most Chilean’s want to see their best player play in the rest of the tournament.
For those in Ireland, this incident might bring back memories of Saipan, and Roy Keane being sent home from the World Cup by then coach Mick McCarthy, for conduct McCarthy deemed detrimental to the team. To take the analogy even further, at the time Keane was one of the best midfielders in the world, much like Vidal is today.
For anyone hazy or unfamiliar, here is a quick reminder of that story. Be advised, the bare facts presented in the video are true but the video is biased towards Keane.
The Saipan debacle split the nation, but Chilean coach Sampioli hasn’t allowed things to develop along a similar course here. Instead he has defended Vidal.
“He is a very valuable player who has made a mistake, but not the kind of mistake that makes it necessary to exclude him. He was in his free time after all. I don’t believe this is as serious as some have tried to portray it.”
Those comments are disgraceful. To try and claim that the incident is not “serious” makes Sampioli sound either incredibly dim or incredibly spineless. I am going to give Sampioli the benefit of the doubt and say that it unlikely that he is dim, he has after all enjoyed a successful coaching career. But that in turn would make him spineless.
Sampioli simply had to come out and condemn Vidal’s actions, to not do so and allow Vidal to continue to remain part of the team makes it appear as if Sampioli was afraid to speak out against Vidal. It is unfathomable that he has not at least said something along the lines of “Arturo’s actions last night were reckless, as his coach I am very disappointed in him. I have spoken to the player, he has shown huge remorse…” The coaches refusal to condemn Vidal’s behaviour sends out terrible message to his young fans throughout the world.
Vidal himself went to great distances to claim he was not to blame for the incident.
Lamentablemente me vi involucrado en un accidente de tránsito. Por suerte estamos todos bien y tranquilos. Gracias x la preocupación!
— Arturo Vidal (@kingarturo23) June 17, 2015
That translates as
‘Regrettably I was involved in a traffic accident. Luckily we are all well and calm. Thanks for the concern.’
There is no mention here of him admitting that he was entirely to blame for the incident. Unhappy with that, he then later posted a video on Twitter in which he says
‘Hello. Today I was in a traffic accident. It wasn’t my fault, I am well, my family are well, and thanks for everything.’
Vidal is undoubtedly a world class player, and if rumours are to be believed we may even see him playing in England next season. However one can only imagine his behaviour over the last 2 days will make the top teams think twice about pursuing his signature.