London: Four members of Libya`s national football team and 13 other Libyan football figures have defected to rebels, in a propaganda blow to Muammar Gaddafi, the BBC reported on Saturday.
It said national goalkeeper Juma Gtat and Adel bin Issa, the coach of Tripoli`s top club al-Ahly, announced the defections in the rebel-held Nafusa Mountains in western Libya.
"I am telling Colonel Gaddafi to leave us alone and allow us to create a free Libya," the BBC quoted Gtat as saying at a hotel in the town of Jadu. "In fact I wish he would leave this life altogether."
Gaddafi has suffered a series of defections by military officers, diplomats and members of his government, but has resisted efforts by rebels backed by a NATO bombing campaign to dislodge him after four decades in power.
Bin Issa told the BBC he had chosen to come to the Western Mountains "to send a message that Libya should be unified and free", adding: "I hope to wake up one morning to find that Gaddafi is no longer there."