World Football, Baseball Stars Grieve For Venezuela
The grief of Venezuela’s deadly political crisis has reached as far as the football pitches of the English Premier League and the diamonds of Major League Baseball in the United States.
While their friends and compatriots are being shot dead during anti-government protests, Venezuelan sports stars overseas are sharing their despair online and on the field.
– Football: Aristeguieta, Rondon –
Among the mourners is footballer Fernando Aristeguieta of Portuguese side Nacional de Madeira. His childhood friend Miguel Castillo, 27, on Wednesday became the 38th person killed in the latest wave of unrest.
“Such great pain. Rest in peace, Miguel,” the striker wrote on Twitter to the friend he knew when they were pupils at Saint Ignatius de Loyola high school in Caracas.
“He was one of those lads who knew everyone in school. He was always telling jokes,” Aristeguieta, 25, told AFP later.
Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro’s government accuse it of violently repressing protesters who are demonstrating to demand early elections in an economic crisis.
“Today, they killed Miguel, tomorrow, they will kill another of my friends, the day after tomorrow it will be my brother and next month it will be my turn,” Aristeguieta said in a video message.
“How long will this go on? Venezuela does not deserve this. Enough!”
Elsewhere in Europe, Salomon Rondon dedicated his first goal of the year for English club West Bromwich Albion “to my people, to my country, to the fallen and to those engaged in the struggle… To those who are every day in my heart.”
“No more repression!” tweeted the captain of the Venezuelan national football team Tomas Rincon, a midfielder who plays for Italian club Juventus.
He dedicated Juventus’s success in reaching this season’s Champions League final to the casualties of the crisis.
– Baseball: Miguel Cabrera –
The US sports world has heard mounting cries of alarm, as Washington has expressed concern about the violence in Venezuela. Maduro says the crisis is a US-backed plot.
Arguably the biggest Venezuelan star in world sport is Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, four-time American League batting champion.
He voiced sympathy in a recent online message for Venezuelans suffering in the crisis.
“They are fighting for food, for medicine, for a better life,” said Cabrera, 34.
“Someone has to stand up and say: enough. No more. It is over. People are dying in Venezuela.”
In last Sunday’s game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Milwaukee Brewers, three Venezuelan players wore the message “SOS Venezuela” in their anti-glare eye black.
“We want no more deaths, no more bloodshed,” Venezuela’s Omar Vizquel, a legendary shortstop now retired at 50, said in a recorded message.
“Please, no more pitiless repression.”
– Basketball: Gregory Vargas –
In Venezuela’s home football league, players for Lara and Anzoategui stood still at the opening whistle for a minute’s silence two weeks ago at the height of the violence.
The Football Federation had not authorized the gesture, but “the players are united and on the pitch we are in charge,” said Lara defender Gabriel Cichero.
The federation got behind the minute’s silence when it was repeated on the following match day.
Aristeguieta and Castillo’s team Caracas FC also staged a minute’s silence for the casualties of the violence on Thursday at a regional Copa Sudamericana match.
There have been minutes of silence at professional basketball games.
Overseas, Venezuelan basketball star Gregory Vargas wore a black armband and unfurled his country’s flag on the court at his club, Maccabi Haifa in Israel.
“No more violence. Enough repression,” he said in a video message.