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Report: Player decapitated by gang

FOX Soccer.com
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TRAGIC SPORTS DEATHS

Remembering the many athletes sports lost way too soon.

Several media outlets reported on Wednesday that former Brazilian soccer player Joao Rodrigo Silva Santos was kidnapped and decapitated, the suspected work of drug gangs, whereupon his severed head was delivered to his wife’s doorstep.

According to several reports, the head of the 35-year-old, who played professionally in Brazil, Honduras and Sweden from 1996 through 2005, was discovered by his wife on her way to work Tuesday morning after he was reportedly seized outside his natural foods store the night before. His head had been placed in one of his own backpacks and was missing his tongue and eyes.

"Around 4:30 a.m., she heard a noise, opened the gate and [saw] his backpack," reported G1 Globo, via Google Translate. "When she opened it, it was the head."

Santos’s wife reportedly works as a social worker for an organization that cooperates with local police to try to rid Rio de Janeiro’s slums of the drug gangs. Investigator Rafael Rangel told Brazil's O Dia newspaper that he was unaware of any specific threat that was made to Silva Santos or his family.

One of Brazil’s biggest drug cartels has warned or a “World Cup of terror,” presumably in response to the government’s ongoing crackdown.

The 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil on June 12, but the country’s preparations for the tournament continue to be marred by reports of fan violence, corruption, demonstrations and construction delays. During the summer, a referee stabbed a player to death for refusing to leave the field after being ejected from the game. The referee was stoned to death by spectators and, claims the Daily Mail, his head was placed atop a stake.

FOXSoccer.com's Leander Schaerlaeckens and FOXSports.com's Sam Gardner contributed to this report.