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Rafa Marquez's insane quest to captain Mexico at the World Cup

Sunday 27th May 2018

Rafa Marquez is 39. The former Barcelona and New York Red Bull stand-out feels able to play in the World Cup. He is willing to go through any hurdle to do so. Normally, that would be admirable. The jury is still out in this case, however. More accurately, it hasn’t yet been convened because indictments haven’t been handed down.

The problem isn’t that Marquez must prove to the Mexico coaching staff that he can still bring it. Juan Carlos Osorio wants him there, wearing the captain’s armband. He has gone so far as to name him to the preliminary squad. The Mexico boss knows the centre-half has lost a step but plans to slot him in as a defensive midfielder where that will be less a problem. In fact, it will improve El Tri. Marquez’s distributive skills are world class.

Unfortunately, the United States Department of the Treasury is concerned the player has developed other distributive skills. They have labelled him a “front man” for notorious drug dealer Raul Flores Hernandez, whose territory around Guadalajara makes him an important partner to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel and Jalisco New Generation. The American agency believes Marquez and other actors not only associate with the druglord but help him launder illicit money. Under legislation known as the Foreign Drug Kingpin Act, the DoT can freeze all American assets belonging to designees, restrict their ability to do business in the United States, and severely fine any companies that do business in America for entering into dealings with people and entities fronting for Hernandez.

The World Cup is in Russia, not the US. Nevertheless, the situation still presents several problems for the Mexican national team. To begin, it stages many friendlies in US cities. Given the large Mexican-American demographic, the games are a lucrative resource for the FMF. If Marquez were in the squad, the stadiums hosting the matches would be in violation of the FDKA and liable to fines and possibly criminal charges. Every match sponsor would face the same risk. The opponent’s national federation would also be risking sanctions.

There is also the risk that, while not under indictment, Marquez could be served with a subpoena and taken into custody for questioning. He cannot chance to enter the US with El Tri.

Even when he stays away, the FDKA hinders his joining the team. Marquez recently showed up to a practice wearing plain training gear devoid of all sponsorship.

Finally, there is concern that should Marquez travel to Russia to participate, FIFA will be caught up in the imbroglio. The game’s governing body is already hip-deep in a corruption investigation brought forward by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The organisation has taken no action nor made any statement regarding the player or situation, but there must be backroom concern that the two US agencies will work together, sharing information to aid both investigations.

For his part, Marquez has categorically denied the allegations, claiming no relationships of any kind with drug dealers. He has also promised to “clear all this up.” Presuming his innocence, the easiest thing would be to take an interview with Treasury agents. Unfortunately, the US Constitution doesn’t always extend rights like the presumption of innocence to foreign nationals. In fact, the Kingpin Act allows the US government to seize assets without due process. Even with attorneys present, Marquez has no guarantees his cooperation will be appreciated and respected in good faith. He desperately wants to go to the World Cup but not so much as to risk his freedom for the chance.

Would you?

Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin contributes frequently to Stretty News and is the author of the short story collection strange bOUnce. He has appeared in several other blogs which, sadly, have ceased to exist. He is old and likes to bring out defunct. Although football is his primary passion, the geezer enjoys many sports and pop culture forms. Expect them to intrude upon his meanderings for It's Round and It's White.

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