Issues within the structure of Mexican soccer allowed a fiasco at Queretaro, and continue to hold Liga MX back.Two defeats and a draw in the CONCACAF Champions League against MLS opposition did not cause much of a wave in the press south of the border.
While it was obviously a negative week for Mexican sides in international competition – with all fives teams failing to win over the CCL and Copa Libertadores – there’s another altogether darker and more sinister story gripping the Mexican game at present.
Queretaro has been dragged through the mud following accusations that owner Amado Yanez’s Oceanografia company was involved in banking fraud to the tune of $360 million USD.
The club is now in administration. Its accounts have been frozen, players haven’t been paid and the team is cutting costs to such an extent that only players in the 18 are traveling to away games and there is no meetup on the eve of home games – players make their own way to the Estadio Corregidora.
The club’s crest has been amended, with the orange put in by Yanez to bring luck to the institution taken out after it appeared to have the very opposite effect.
Rewind just a few months and Queretaro was a club on the rise. A new training center for the youth academy was being built, construction on sister club Delfines del Carmen’s state-of-the-art stadium was continuing and the institution was starting to attract some top players.
Mexico national team legends Claudio Suarez and Jorge Campos were also involved in the project. From the outside, the club looked like it was going to be a successful soccer outfit in a colonial city that has had continuing problems maintaining a first division team.
Yanez’s stated aim was to make the institution one of the most important clubs in Mexico within five years.
But now the future of soccer in the city is in severe doubt and Liga MX rules state the club could be kicked out of the first division.
When league president Decio de Maria did finally speak out on the situation this week, he did the equivalent of wash his hands of the issue, saying the problems came as a “surprise” and that Oceanografia seemed to be “a business that was or appeared to be solid.”
An exposé in Wednesday’s El Universal on the problems Yanez has had from well before he bought Queretaro last May and a quick search in Spanish on Google Mexico reveal that Liga MX can’t have done the most thorough research if it knew nothing of them.
Or maybe, the Liga MX simply thought it better to look the other way with the prospect of a wealthy benefactor coming into the league. Either way, a firm statement saying the Liga MX on redoubling efforts to make sure owners such as Yanez don’t get their hands on clubs and on making the game as clean and transparent as possible would’ve done a world of good.
The reality is that the future of the club is now up in the air, with Queretaro state governor on record saying he wants to keep the club in the city. The club is looking for prospective investors – El Economista estimates it is worth $59 million – but that may or may not involve the team moving. At this stage, beggars can’t be choosers and with Morelia owner TV Azteca buying Atlas last year, the potential for one of the Liga MX current team owners to buy Queretaro is a possibility.
If you believe in karma, it would appear it has come back to bite, especially in the case of Queretaro.
At the end of last season, the small town of La Piedad – in the violence-riddled state of Michoacan – won promotion to Mexico’s first division.
But a series of decisions – all backed by the Liga MX – led to La Piedad losing its team. Yanez bought Jaguares and moved them to Queretaro, who had just been relegated, while Carlos Chargoy Lopez moved his team to Chiapas. Veracruz bought La Piedad.
The net result was that Veracruz came into the league, Queretaro was reinstated and La Piedad disappeared.
Confused? It was difficult to understand and the Liga MX justification of the first division musical chairs not “doing anything that isn’t in the rules” was again lackluster considering that flagrant breach of sporting decency.
On top of the Queretaro issue, both Puebla and Chiapas – owned by the Lopez Chargoy family – have had problems paying players, who have publically made statements of protest.
The Liga MX isn’t the only imperfect league in the world by a long stretch, but these issues of financial problems, multi-ownership and buying out of relegated teams buying their way back into the first division aren’t helping to improve its image or standing.
The start of the “Liga MX” brand was a missed opportunity to draw a line under these questions, to clean up the game and establish a solid system of competition.
Instead, soccer in Mexico is losing an opportunity to stand out as a beacon of transparency in both the country and Latin America. And the weakness in addressing some of the big issues will hamper Mexican soccer as it attempts to compete in coming years with the grandiose plans of MLS and other ambitious leagues around the world.