“I was so nervous and scared,” he said by phone. “I called her like crazy as soon as I could. They are afraid. They want to leave.”
Najar, 23, was trying to arrange for his family to fly to Washington, the city where he and his wife, both Honduran immigrants, grew up and met. With the international airport closed, however, he is having trouble getting them out. By next week, he hopes, they can reunite in Washington before he returns on his own to Brussels for the final stretch of the season.
This was not Najar’s first scare in Belgium. Last fall, while his family was in Washington, he was in Brussels as the manhunt for the Paris terrorists gripped the Belgian city. The Najars’ neighborhood is nice, but not far from Molenbeek, the district known as a radical hub.
Najar has played for Anderlecht for three years and, although he has two seasons left on his contract, he said he has had enough.
“I’m afraid for my family,” said Najar, a former student at Edison High School in Alexandria, Va. “I don’t want anything to happen to them or happen to me. It’s dangerous. I want to be safe. It would be best for me to leave here.”
He is hopeful Anderlecht will soon begin fielding transfer offers from clubs elsewhere in Europe.
Even if the terrorist attacks had not occurred, Najar might have left this summer anyway. A swift right back and wing with Olympic, World Cup, Champions League and Europa League experience, he is a hot commodity on the international market and has drawn interest from big clubs willing to pay Anderlecht a high transfer fee. He could have moved during the winter transfer window, but Anderlecht was intent on retaining him for the rest of the season.
The recent incidents are likely to accelerate his departure. Spain, Italy and England are possible destinations. Those countries are not immune to terrorism, but Najar said the atmosphere has gotten so tense in Belgium, he would prefer to go elsewhere.
The climate in Belgium has also rekindled dark memories of Najar’s early life in Honduras, where violence led to the murder of relatives and prompted his family to escape to the United States.
“In every country, it can happen,” he said. “But Belgium is bad right now. I don’t want this life for my family. I love playing for Anderlecht. It has allowed me to become a better player. But at the moment, I don’t want to go back.”