A shocked Radja Nainggolan admitted that he was lucky that a meeting with his sponsors prevented him from being at the scene of the devastating terror attack in Brussels on Tuesday.
The Roma star, who was due at Zaventem airport where the tragic attack took place for international duty with Belgium, could not hide his shock and dismay at the events in his home nation.
Nainggolan confirmed that he struggled to get into contact with friends who work at the airport, and that used Whatsapp to reassure Roma executives, some teammates and his wife Claudia of his safety.
What went through your mind [when you heard the news]?
“If I didn’t have a commitment with my sponsor, I could’ve been at Zaventem airport that morning. Because of the event I had to go to, I arrived in Belgium a day earlier, but in Antwerp. Otherwise, I would have taken an early morning flight from Rome and I would have landed directly in Brussels.
“Everything changed. The coach told us that the afternoon training session would be skipped, and the retreat would be delayed until further notice. So now we don’t know what to do. Is our match with Portugal going to be cancelled?”
Did you hear from your friends?
“I have so many that work at the airport. I hope that they are all alright because here I can’t talk to anyone. I don’t even know the names of the victims, I hope everything is ok.”
What was your first thought when you learned of the terrorist attack?
“After the explosions in Zaventem I said: ‘Here now comes the second and the third’. I was not wrong. My fear was that they could hit Antwerp. The city is great, the most important one in Belgium alongside Brussels and I was afraid that it might be targeted by terrorists.”
What can football do about this? And what can Nainggolan do?
“It’s hard to say because they are torn between their love of football and the safety of their people. I love to play, and I can’t live without [football]. But I wish there were no risks.”
Is holding Euro 2016 behind closed doors a solution?
“It would be sad. That must be a global event, seen and followed by all. With empty stadiums it would not be the same thing, it would not send a message of peace.”