So Luis Suuarez’s reward for biting an opponent during the four-yearly footballing showpiece of the World Cup looks like being a dream move to Barcelona. Now don’t get me wrong; Luis is clearly a very special footballer and while I think he should be punished, I also think he needs help. However, am I the only one who questions the morality of a sport where somebody can bite another player and almost immediately get such a reward?
This came to mind when I came across the story of a real footballing hero, whilst surfing the net last week. Al-jazeera, a media outlet, which sad to say is streets ahead of the likes of the BBC in reporting important news stories, has been runing a series on football rebels. The downside is that it is presented by our old bete noire, Eric Cantona. However, if you can put the first Wednesday in March 1996 behind you then I think you will gain your own reward by watching the programme I saw. And to be fair to Cantona, you will also learn something new about his background….
The programme related the story of Carlos Caszely and what an impressive figure he is; a real footballing hero. He was a star member of the Chilean national team in the early 1970’s – and a supporter of democratically-elected President Allende. Then came the first 9/11 – 11th September 1973, when a CIA-inspired coup saw General Pinochet take over as dictator as Allende committed suicide in the Presidential Palace in Santiago. Pinochet then unleashed a terrible reign of terror, including murder and torture on a massive scale, for the following 17 years.
This terror included mass arrests of opponents, torture and disappearnces. These last saw people being lifted off the streets, taken up over the Pacific Ocean and shot dead, with their bodies being dumped in the sea just off the coast of Chile, one of the deepest sections of ocean in the world. When relatives went to the local police station to report the ‘disappearance’ of their loved one, they would be told that the police had no idea where they were and that it was not their concern.
One of the other infamous features of the oppression after 11th September was the use of the National Stadium in Santiago. The dressing rooms, usually used by international footballers to prepare for a game were used as places of terrible torture. In all up to
30 000 political opponents of the Pinochet’s vicious right-wing regime were held there in what became a massive concentration camp. The greaat Chilean singer-songwriter Victor Jara was amongst those held there. His hands were smashed and his guitar thrown at him, before being shot. I remember back in 1992 meeting a Scotsman, who 19 years on was still ashamed that not long after the coup Scotland played a friendly in that very same stadium.
It was a similar outrage that Carlos Caszely felt. As one of the top players in the Chilean national side he was in a great position to speak out against Pinochet. This he did, saying no to dictaorship and no to torture. At the time, Carlos was playing in Spain so, unable to get him, the right-wing thugs employed by Pinochet arrested his mother and tortured her.
As Carlos says, “I think they were making me pay for it. Pay for it with what was dearest to me – my mother … Just because I said no to dictatorship … I said no to dictatorship on every level: no to dictatorship, no to torture …. So they made me pay for that with what they did to my mother.”
The full story can be found at:
The programme lasts about 25 minutes ands is well worth watching, if only as a reminder that some footballers have been so much more than spoilt, self-centred brats and mercenaries, who are paid far too much. It is also a reminder that being a hero can mean more than just scoring a winning goal or saving a penalty.
Carlos Caszely; a real footballing hero.
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