Bolivia’s Evo Morales: part-time pro footballer

Once the first indigenous president of an impoverished country with an Indian majority has established his authority,tripled the size of the economy and is poised to win a third mandate, what else is there to do?
Sign up as a midfielder for a professional clubfor next season.
That is what Bolivia’s President Evo Morales recently did with Sport Boys, a team based in Warnes, outside the eastern city of Santa Cruz, once a bitter hardline opposition stronghold to his government.
“President Evo Morales will break two Guinness records,” said Mario Cronenbold, the club’s president who is also the mayor of Warnes: one for being the only professional player making his debut aged 54, and the other for being the only president in office who is playing professionally.
“He loves football and plays very well,” Cronenbold also said.
He certainly does love the game and is always ready to play matches even with other presidents, including once against former Iranian leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In one of his crusading matches to protest against efforts by Fifa to stop playing international fixtures at high altitude, he once played near the top of a 5,400-metre glacier prove to that it was safe to stage matches in the Andean country.
Moreover, when your Argentine-born correspondent once landed in the country’s capital La Paz, he witnessed Morales playing a charity match at 3,600m above sea level alongside Diego Maradona, also to defend altitude football
He once had an association with two other football clubs, San José of Oruro and Litoral of La Paz. This time, Sports Boys says Morales will wear the number 10 shirt – just like Maradona did during most of his professional career.
True to his humble origins Morales, who is a former Aymara llama herder and coca farmer, would not receive a salary as a player only travel expenses, said the club’s president.
He is set to play for about 15 minutes each game, but will not be present in every match – he is a head of state, after all.
Aside from his penchant for the ball, the sport has played a big role in Morales’s political career. His skills on the pitch helped him to climb to the top of the coca growers’s union, which in turn was his launching pad as a national politician and helped him create a party, the Movement Towards Socialism, or MAS.
He won the presidency on the MAS platform for the first time in 2006, after Bolivia’s indigenous people voted in bloc.
Four years later, the combative president somehow escaped a red card during a football match between teams of political rivals – in retaliation for a foul, Morales was caught on camera delivering a swift knee which landed squarely in an opponent’s groin.
The Andean country may have not classified for the World Cup in Brazil, but that does not mean Bolivians cannot enjoy some classy football fun this year.