Mexico soccer hero Marquez accused of cartel ties
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.