What the "El Aissami signing" says about our football league

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B9Lg28zCYAAs2m8.jpg largeIf you follow football closely, you might know that every January is winter-transfer market time. In Venezuela, it wasn’t so different. Yeah, the players involved are not as exciting as those in the Premier League, the Bundesliga or even the MLS, but that’s the deal we’re stuck with.

But days after the market closed, the club Aragua F.C. made a special signing for the Clausura 2015: Aragua State Governor Tareck El Aissami.

No, this isn’t a Chiguire post. The former Interior Minister was already training with the first team for weeks. Even if he’s in his forties, El Aissami really likes the sport, he shows up to the club’s events, and the state government is a major sponsor. Matter of fact, he and his closest collaborators just played a friendly match with the team last December.

Of course the idea of a politician trying luck in football ain’t new: Bolivian President Evo Morales toyed with the idea last year, but quickly discarded it. I guess Mr. El Aissami didn’t have a problem to take his passion to the next level.

But this news, aside from the curiosity (or trolling) factor, comes in a very difficult moment for the Venezuelan football league. Before this annoucement took place, the Venezuelan Professional Footballers Association (AUPFV) informed that they would denounce the local Federation (FVF) to FIFA for its constant inaction regarding the clubs’ failure to fulfill their legal obligations with the players, like paying their social security and working benefits.

It’s no secret that many of our clubs are struggling financially, even if they count on State sponsorships (like PDVSA or States’ governments). Sometimes it literally takes an outside savior to rescue them from total collapse, like Zulia F.C. with former Vinotinto head coach Cesar Farias. But the ongoing economic crisis isn’t the only everyday problem affecting our football clubs. There’s for example, the worrying issue of violence.

After a recent Second Division match in Porlamar with Margarita FC, some players of Estudiantes de Caracas F.C. were attacked in the dressing room and one of them (veteran Uruguayan player Nicolas Massia) was stabbed. Their belongings were robbed during the incident. I’m happy to report that Massia and the others injured are recovering, but this incident is the latest in violent incidents in our stadiums. However, the Federation have washed its hands clean from this with the formal request of… you guess it… special legislation for the matter. Are. You. Kidding. Me?

Other troubling issues are of a logistical nature, like infrastructure and transportation: A match between C.D. Lara and Estudiantes de Merida was suspended after the Andean team suffered a bus accident, which left six wounded. The catch is that the game wasn’t supposed to be at the Metropolitan Stadium in Cabudare, but in San Felipe. Why? C.D. Lara is threatening to move out of the eight-year old stadium, because of what they called “deplorable conditions”. The Lara State Government offered the club to assume full control, but the club thinks it can’t afford the many costs.

With all these problems, the person in charge should take responsbility, right? Guess what? That’s very unlikely, as the head of the FVF Rafael Esquivel is expected to keep the job after 27 years. Looks like he wants to pull a Grondona.

No wonder some have called the combination of all these events “the grayest week for our football in decades”. It’s true that many of the league’s problems are linked to the country’s, but that’s no excuse for the FVF, the clubs, players and fans to put more effort.

I have written in CC about Venezuelan football before, during both good times and bad times. As a football fan myself I would like to support my local league (and club C.D. Lara) more, but shenanigans like this makes it impossible.