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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kidnap Threatens Georgia Qualifier

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TBILISI, Georgia — Georgia international Kakha Kaladze said Tuesday that his mind was on his kidnapped younger brother rather than on a World Cup qualifier against Italy on Saturday.

"I can't even think about the game right now," said the 23-year-old AC Milan winger Tuesday after arriving in Tbilisi for the match.

Last week, Kaladze's brother Levan, 21, was reported missing after he failed to return home from a Tbilisi medical school.

On Monday, Georgia's soccer chief Merab Zhordania confirmed for the first time that the younger Kaladze has been kidnapped in Georgia and his captors were demanding a ransom for his release.

"My heart is broken right now and all I can think of is my brother's well-being and how I can help to win his release," he said.

"The Italy game is secondary to me at the moment, and I don't know if I will even play."

Local media reported that Kaladze was being held in the Pankisi gorge in northern Georgia, and that his captors had demanded $600,000 in cash for his release.

The region is known as a lawless area adjacent to Chechnya, and is home to refugees fleeing Moscow's military crackdown in the war-torn republic.

Georgian players have meanwhile threatened to boycott the European Group 8 qualifier if Kaladze is not released.

"If Kakha does not play, it won't be right for us to play either," Cologne striker Archil Arveladze said Monday. "I don't want to play without Kakha being able to play for us."

Georgia captain Georgi Nemsadze added: "What has happened to Kakha and his family could just as well happen to any of us."

Georgia national team coach Revaz Dzodzuashvili was sympathetic to his players' cause.

"I doubt that the players would voluntarily step on to the field in this situation," he said. "I understand how they feel."