Blackpool striker, Beryly Lubala has been cleared of raping an 18-year-old girl after inviting her to his hotel room for ‘Netflix and chill’ and having sex with her.
Striker Lubala, 24, said he was “delighted” to be found not guilty, and is eager to get back to playing football.
The footballer was accused of grabbing the 18-year-old by her hair and telling her to stop making noise and “be a good girl” before raping her, claims he always denied.
The player insisted he never wanted to sleep with the woman at all because he had a match the next day, Lewes Crown Court heard.
The forward thanked his legal team after a jury took less than two hours to find him not guilty.
Speaking after the verdict, the player said: “I am delighted with the verdict and I would like to thank Jesus Christ my Lord and saviour.
“Thank you to my family and friends for standing by me through what has been an incredibly difficult period of my life.
“I would also like to thank the jury, and the judge Her Honour Shani Barnes for their time.
“Finally, I would like to thank Julia Smart QC, and my solicitor Iqbal Ahmed for their hard work and support.
“Now that a jury has found me to be innocent of all charges I wish to put this episode behind me and focus on my family, my future, and my career as a footballer.”
Her Honour Judge Shani Barnes said: “Thank you all for staying so calm, I know that was hard for you.”
The judge told the jury: “This one took on a whole new level of pressure. People’s lives were on hold.
“You are free to go back to your lives and Mr Lubala is free to go back to his.”
The woman, now aged 20, had told cops she made it clear she did not want to have sex with the player in numerous text messages before visiting his home in September 2019.
The pair met after the girl “liked a few pictures in a row” on Lubala’s Instagram and began chatting on Snapchat before meeting up in person.
The woman told the court she had engaged in sexual activity with the Championship footballer on two separate occasions before the night she claimed she was attacked.
The jury heard Lubala had contacted her again after the woman had ended another relationship. He allegedly texted the woman saying he only wanted to watch Netflix and chill, and she eventually agreed to visit him a third time.
That night, the woman drove to his place in Horsham, near Crawley, West Sussex on September 13, 2019 – when Lubala was playing for Crawley Town.
The court then heard a series of emotional voice messages recorded by the woman as she drove herself home.
Last week, Lubala sobbed in the dock while telling a jury how he worked in an Amazon warehouse to get by after he was suspended from Blackpool FC.
He described how he was expecting his first child when he was informed he had been charged – and feared he’d lose his income.
At the time of the alleged rape, Lubala was attracting attention from Championship and Premier League scouts after joining Crawley Town from Birmingham City.
The striker then joined Blackpool a year later in 2020 on a three-year contract.