In Brief

Former Arsenal star denies he has become a Syrian jihadist

'He is not a jihadist, he is a footballer with Lokomotiv Moscow,' says Lassana Diarra's agent

Former Arsenal star Lassana Diarra

FORMER Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder Lassana Diarra has denied bizarre rumours that he has become an Islamic warrior and is waging jihad in Syria, insisting that his allegiance was to Lokomotiv Moscow rather than Muslim militia groups fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Rumours that the French international had given up the day job and headed to Syria surfaced on social media at the weekend after a video of a man extolling the virtues of jihad appeared on Russian based website FiSyria.com, explains the Daily Mail.

The man, wearing a balaclava and touting an AK47, is named as Abu Isa al-Andalus by the website, which also claims that he used to play for Arsenal but had "left football, money and the European way of life to make the path of Allah". The player had tried to dismiss the rumours on Twitter, but when they refused to go away his lawyer, Eric Dupond Moretti, issued a statement this week, stating that the 29-year-old "denies in the most formal, the most categoric, the most absolute fashion that he has gone to Syria". Moretti added, with echoes of Monty Python: "He has never set foot in Syria. It's absurd. He is not a jihadist, he is a footballer with Lokomotiv Moscow."

In Syria??? Lol nice joke guys have a good evening on twitter G5!!!!

 

— Lass Diarra (@Lass_Officiel) April 7, 2014

Diarra, who is French and of Malian descent, spent two years at Chelsea before moving to Arsenal in 2007. He spent one season at the Emirates before signing for Portsmouth, with whom he won the FA Cup. After that he moved to Real Madrid and helped win La Liga in 2012. He has been plying his trade in Russia since then. Claims that Diarra had become a jihadist were plainly "ridiculous", says Eurosport's Early Doors blog, not least because the fighter says he is from Portugal and grew up with Cristiano Ronaldo. The jihadist's name is also a giveaway. "Al-Andalusi" is a clear reference to Spain or Portugal. "Additionally, Diarra is not a convert as the man in the video claims – he was born a Muslim. It appears the entire rumour was based around the fact that Diarra once played for Arsenal and that, like the militant, is of African descent."

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