Mexico made history at the weekend with their victory over Germany to put themselves in an enviable position at the top of Group F - one of the toughest groups at 2018 Russia, and boost their chances of making the next round. Rafa Márquez, who came on the the last 17 minutes, made a bit of history himself. He joins Lothar Matthäus, Gianluigi Buffon and Antonio 'La Tota' Carbajal as one of four players who have appeared in five different World Cup finals.
That however, is where the sentimental part of the story ends. The 39-year-old has been deemed a persona non grata by the United States after being linked with Mexican drug kingpin Raúl Flores Hernández. The US Treasury Department accused former Barcelona and Monaco player Márquez of acting as a high profile face for the organization - accusations which the player has denied from the start. To this day, he and his legal team are battling to clear his name.
Training kit free of US branding
But in the meantime, Márquez has been forced to comply with a series of conditions which allows him to be in Russia with the Mexico squad. Because he appears on a blacklist, he cannot be seen to have any association whatsoever with any US branding, business, bank or product relating to the United States. For example, in Mexico's training sessions, he can been seen with a training top devoid the Coca Cola logo.
The New York Times report that the restrictions also prohibit Márquez from drinking the same isotonic drinks his team mates use to rehydrate during training as the brand (Powerade) belongs to Coca Cola.
Almost impossible for Márquez to be named Man of the Match
It is highly unlikely that Márquez will be named ‘Man of the match’ - even if he puts in the performance of his life in Russia. The award is sponsored by American brewers Budweiser and it would be a criminal offence for the player to pose next to any publicity relating to the company - even though he has not be found guilty of any connections to Flores Hernández's drugs syndicate. For the same reasons he is forbidden from giving post-match interviews to pitchside cameras as the Flash Zone area is packed with advertising from US brands such as Visa, Coca-Cola, Budweiser and McDonald's. FIFA insist that Márquez can only give interviews for broadcast in areas where no sponsorship branding is visible. And if the veteran is elected to give a press conference at any point during the tournament, FIFA must find a translator who is not an American national.
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