Mex­ico soc­cer hero Mar­quez ac­cused of car­tel ties

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

MEX­ICO CITY — 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.

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.

Mar­quez, who vol­un­tar­ily re­ported on Wed­nes­day to the Mexican Jus­tice Min­istry, de­nied any in­volve­ment.

“I cat­e­gor­i­cally deny any type of re­la­tion­ship with said or­ga­ni­za­tion and the re­ferred events,” he said in a mes­sage to re­porters from his club, At­las de Guadala­jara.

Mar­quez made his pro­fes­sional de­but in 1996 with At­las 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.

Thus be­gan Mar­quez’s march to the top flight of Euro­pean soc­cer, lead­ing to two Cham­pi­ons League ti­tles with Barcelona. He has cap­tained Mex­ico in four World Cups.

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 “long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ship” with car­tel boss Raul Flores Her­nan­dez and held as­sets on his car­tel’s be­half.

Mar­quez was the top trend­ing topic in Mex­ico on Twit­ter on Wed­nes­day. Soc­cer 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.

Rafael Mar­quez

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