Football fever

Rafael Marquez, former Barcelona defender and Mexico captain, accused of drug cartel ties: Report

The 38-year-old was one of the 21 people singled out by the US treasury department for sanctions.

Mexico and former FC Barcelona star Rafael Marquez is dubbed “The Boss” for his leadership of the national football team – but now the United States has branded him a drug criminal. No other Mexican player has won more titles and he is widely considered second only to Hugo Sanchez as the country’s best player ever.

Marquez, who voluntarily reported Wednesday to the Mexican Justice Ministry, denied any involvement. “I categorically deny any type of relationship with said organization and the referred events,” the football star said in a message to reporters from his club, Atlas de Guadalajara.

Now 38 and still scoring goals, “Rafa,” as he is known to fans, was one of a generation of Mexican players hailed as “boy heroes” in the 1990s. He made his professional debut in 1996 – not long before Sanchez’s retirement – with Atlas de Guadalajara and first played for the national team the following year. While playing for Mexico against Chile in a Copa America game in 1999, he caught the eye of a scout for French side AC Monaco.

“I went to the Copa America to see a Chilean player. But I spotted a defender in the Mexican side that I liked,” said scout Julien Muller. Thus began Marquez’s march to the top flight of European football, leading to two Champions League titles with Barcelona. “I have great memories of the Copa America. The first one I played in gave me the chance to make myself known and to go to Europe,” he said in 2015.

‘Amazing’ presence

His first 11-year spell in Europe included a victory with Barcelona in the Champions League final against Arsenal in 2006. He returned briefly to Europe in the 2014-’15 season to play for Hellas Verona in Italy. He later played for the New York Red Bulls and then for Leon in Mexico, winning a league title, before returning in 2016 to Atlas, where he still plays.

“Having Rafael Marquez on the team is amazing,” said Atlas Argentine defender Facundo Erpen. “He is an open book to everyone. Anyone can ask him things and learn from him constantly.” Marquez has captained Mexico in four World Cups. Still potent despite injuries, he scored the winning goal in the 89th minute of a 2-1 World Cup qualifier victory over the United States last November.

Mexico’s current coach, Juan Carlos Osorio of Colombia, had said recently that he intended to take Marquez to next year’s World Cup in Russia. “We hope that Rafael is still fit” for that challenge, he said. Scandal struck on Wednesday however when the US Treasury accused Marquez of being a “front person” for a major drug trafficking ring. He was one of 22 people and 43 entities the Treasury placed on a sanctions list in relation to a Guadalajara-based cartel.

The Treasury said Marquez has a “longstanding relationship” with cartel boss Raul Flores Hernandez and held assets on his drug cartel’s behalf.

Fans shocked

Marquez was the top trending topic in Mexico on Twitter on Wednesday. The country is used to news of violence and corruption related to its powerful drug gangs. But football fans expressed shock and disbelief at Wednesday’s news about their sporting hero. “This is really bad, because he is a role model for children,” said Fernando, a young man in a Barcelona shirt.

Another fan in the streets of Mexico City, shoeshine man Mario Rodriguez, said the allegation was “absurd, nonsense.” One of Marquez’s co-accused, well-known Mexican singer Julion Alvarez, rushed to the defense of his “great friend.” “He’s got one of the longest careers in football. Do you really think he would need to do something like this?” he said in a video posted on Facebook.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Children's Day is not for children alone

It’s also a time for adults to revisit their childhood.

Most adults look at childhood wistfully, as a time when the biggest worry was a scraped knee, every adult was a source of chocolate and every fight lasted only till the next playtime. Since time immemorial, children seem to have nailed the art of being joyful, and adults can learn a thing or two about stress-free living from them. Now it’s that time of the year again when children are celebrated for...simply being children, and let it serve as a timely reminder for adults to board that imaginary time machine and revisit their childhood. If you’re unable to unbuckle yourself from your adult seat, here is some inspiration.

Start small, by doodling at the back page of your to-do diary as a throwback to that ancient school tradition. If you’re more confident, you could even start your own comic strip featuring people in your lives. You can caricaturise them or attribute them animal personalities for the sake of humour. Stuck in a boring meeting? Draw your boss with mouse ears or your coffee with radioactive powers. Just make sure you give your colleagues aliases.

Pull a prank, those not resulting in revenue losses of course. Prank calls, creeping up behind someone…pull them out from your memory and watch as everyone has a good laugh. Dress up a little quirky for work. It’s time you tried those colourful ties, or tastefully mismatched socks. Dress as your favourite cartoon characters someday – it’s as easy as choosing a ponytail-style, drawing a scar on your forehead or converting a bath towel into a cape. Even dinner can be full of childish fun. No, you don’t have to eat spinach if you don’t like it. Use the available cutlery and bust out your favourite tunes. Spoons and forks are good enough for any beat and for the rest, count on your voice to belt out any pitch. Better yet, stream the classic cartoons of your childhood instead of binge watching drama or news; they seem even funnier as an adult. If you prefer reading before bedtime, do a reread of your favourite childhood book(s). You’ll be surprised by their timeless wisdom.

A regular day has scope for childhood indulgences in every nook and cranny. While walking down a lane, challenge your friend to a non-stop game of hopscotch till the end of the tiled footpath. If you’re of a petite frame, insist on a ride in the trolley as you about picking items in the supermarket. Challenge your fellow gym goers and trainers to a hula hoop routine, and beat ‘em to it!

Children have an incredible ability to be completely immersed in the moment during play, and acting like one benefits adults too. Just count the moments of precious laughter you will have added to your day in the process. So, take time to indulge yourself and celebrate life with child-like abandon, as the video below shows.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of SBI Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.