As part of a protest Friday, players from Liga MX club Veracruz refused to play their match against Tigres for four minutes and 20 seconds of game time. The demonstration was in response to financial neglect from the club’s ownership, which still owes players up to six months in wages. Tigres players stood in solidarity with their opponent for one minute, but then elected to proceed with the match as planned, scoring two goals on the inactive defense. (The protest lasts until about the 2:39 mark.)
That Veracruz had arrived at the game at all was a bit of a surprise. Earlier this week, the league’s footballers’ association (AMFproMX) announced that the players had agreed to boycott the match entirely. However, they acquiesced when officials from the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) and Liga MX suggested that the club could be relegated if the players were not there, according to ESPN. In other words, what the players did was what they had to settle for.
Even the protest presented its own set of problems. You’ll notice in the video that Veracruz players start to look rather uncomfortable after Tigres score their second goal. The reason behind that was either poor planning, or a blatant disregard for player solidarity, depending on who you ask. Veracruz defender Carlos Salcido told reporters that the Tigres knew that Veracruz was planning on protesting for three minutes. “It’s sad. We are all professional. We’re all in football and you all saw what happened,” he told reporters after the game. Teammate Angel Reyna confirmed this plan to TV Azteca.
Tigres captain Guido Pizarro had a different view on the matter. According to him, the two sides agreed to a one-minute protest, but then the Veracruz captain asked for a three- to five-minute protest at the last minute, something the players did not agree to.
“For them to make us responsible for a protest that they were making to their president I think is an error,” said Pizarro afterwards. “We came here, respected what they put in the group (about a one-minute protest) ... and went through with it.”
It was the mentality behind that rather callous sentiment that resulted in the two uncontested goals. Though the second goal came after the three-minute mark, it would appear that Veracruz ended up extending their protest as a result of the first score, as if their opponents were now among the people they were protesting against.
All of this stems from Veracruz owner Fidel Kuri, a thorn in the side of the team for quite some time. Issues between club and owner date back to 2013, the year Kuri took over, when he moved the club from La Piedad, Michoacán to his home state of Veracruz after explicitly promising to keep it where it was. He’s also done shit like threatened to move the team if his preferred political candidate did not win an election, gotten into an altercation with the technical director of the FMF’s refereeing commission—this led to a year-long suspension from all football-related activities—and threatened journalists multiple times. The cherry on top is what leads us to what happened Friday night. According to Salcido, some players haven’t been paid in five or six months, the team lacks basic equipment like ice packs for injuries, the women’s team doesn’t have a private locker room and the youth squads aren’t given proper nutrition. The only money that Kuri has spent so help out the club was a $6.34 million fine to keep them in Liga MX after they were relegated for a season where they only accrued four points—those points were later docked because the club never paid for the rights to use a player that only played one match for them last season. Unsurprisingly, he had some petulant comments after the game.
Veracruz owner Fidel Kuri told ESPN Mexico’s Futbol Picante after the game that he was “embarrassed for the fans” and suggested that Tigres players were in their rights to look to score goals during the protest.
“The players wanted to send a message that wasn’t discussed, but they are in their right,” said Kuri. “We were once again the joke of the nation, or the world with this topic.”
Veracruz’s 3-1 loss to Tigres brings the team’s winless streak to 40 games, with the last victory coming in August 2018.