Rafael Márquez: Mexican captain barred from sponsor brands

Rafael Márquez - InsideSport

Captain Rafael Márquez is among the best known Mexican football stars. The veteran is an integral and one of the most crucial aspects of Mexico’s FIFA World Cup campaign in Russia. Yet, he is isolated for reasons which if ignored may lead to major concerns for Mexico and the FIFA World Cup 2018.

The isolation goes on from having water on the field to the player of the tournament award. If there is a US brand in the picture, Mexico is compelled to keep captain Rafael Márquez out of it.

The US might that had left Iran “bare footed” days before their crucial World Cup opener, has also put Rafael Márquez in the “banned” list for the US brands. Any violation leads to serious consequences.

The 39-year-old Mexican footballer is on a United States Treasury Department blacklist of people it says have helped launder money for drug cartels. His inclusion on the list prohibits American individuals, businesses and banks from dealing with him in anyway.

Márquez, who has been on the Treasury blacklist since August, and several businesses connected to him are accused of acting as fronts and holding assets for Raúl Flores Hernández, who is suspected of leading a drug trafficking organization, states a New York Times report.

Though he has not been criminally charged, Márquez’s financial assets in the United States, as well as his Mexican assets with ties to the American financial network, were frozen. He has vehemently denied any link to drug traffickers and has hired a team of lawyers to challenge his placement on the list and assuage fretful sponsors.

Márquez does not drink from the same branded water bottles as his teammates or wear the same uniform at practices. Instead of being planted in front of sponsors’ logos at every opportunity, as is normally the case for prominent players, he is usually kept away.

If he is the best player in a game, he most assuredly will not be named the Budweiser Man of the Match as is carefully scrutinized to prevent him from staying in places that have any American connections. However hard he works on the field, Márquez has agreed to not get paid.

The American corporate sponsors such as Visa, Coca-Cola, Budweiser and McDonald’s, who have paid millions of dollars to have their brand names displayed all over the World Cup and on its stars are staying away from Márquez as possible.

The Mexican soccer federation and FIFA have known about Márquez’s peculiar situation for months but allowed him to be named to the team and come to the tournament. Both bodies, in fact, have worked together to navigate his course through the tournament and ensure there is no trouble from the Treasury Department.

FIFA, which has significant commercial interest in US, notably with its exclusive commercial rights partner, Soccer United Marketing, has been taking the actions of the U.S. Treasury Department seriously so as not to violate U.S. sanctions laws.

Márquez became only the third player to appear in a World Cup five times after entering the field as a late substitute during Group F opener against Germany on June 17. The Germans ended up in an underwhelming and disgraceful 1-0 defeat at the hand of Germany. After the game, broadcasters did not rush Márquez for an on-field interview which would have meant placing him in front of a clear plastic board covered in sponsor logos, including four major American sponsors.

FIFA had earlier told broadcasters they could not even interview Márquez, before revising that advice to say that they could, provided they did so without displaying sponsor logos. FIFA also has taken measures to pre-empt contact between Márquez and any of its employees who are American citizens. For instance, if Márquez appears at a news conference that FIFA arranges, the moderator should not be an American.

Struggles for Márquez had kocked his door well before the world cup kick-off. He had stopped playing for his club team, Atlas, which is based in Guadalajara, and had been left off the national team roster for months while his lawyers worked on his case. The Mexico federation only named him to its World Cup team as FIFA’s deadline for rosters loomed

He also missed a warm-up match against Wales at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, apparently because he is forbidden to enter the United States. And at training camps before the tournament, and in Russia, Márquez was seen in a plain jersey without any sponsor logos.

If things could not have gotten worse, even his flight tickets had to be booked with utmost care as he is not allowed to travel in US owned carriers.

As of now, he is only supported by foreign brands such as German-based sportswear giants Adidas and Puma. He wears the same Adidas kit as his teammates. Puma, which is his personal sponsor, had congratulated him on achieving the feat of participating in five FIFA World Cup finals.