April 23, 2010, a day which many Latinos remember labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, Arizona’s bill, SB1070, was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer. The law gives local and state police the authority to stop anyone, anywhere, to demand proof of citizenship based only on “reasonable suspicion.”
What is the relationship between SB 1070 and Soccer? Good question! One thing about soccer and its history is that it’s always gone hand in hand with Politics. Since the time Benito Mussolini used soccer to promote the Italian Fascist Party, to the infamous “Soccer War” between Honduras and El Salvador, soccer has always been involved.
One instance includes the conspiracy of whether the Military Dictatorship of Argentina bribed the Peruvian government to have their National Team throw their match against eventual ’78 World Cup winners, Argentina.
In the relationship between Soccer and Politics, players have used Soccer as a vehicle to show their disapproval of the government. One famous incident consisted of Holland’s great footballer, Johan Cruyff. He made the decision to play for Barcelona FC over Real Madrid because he couldn’t play for a club associated with Spanish Dictator Francisco Franco.
Recently when the country of Honduras was in political turmoil, soccer was the only thing that kept the country’s citizens hopes up that things will be resolved. As los Catrachos fought to qualify for the World Cup, both sides involved in the turmoil were wise enough to allow the games go on without interference.
Getting back to my earlier question, one has to understand that soccer is the global sport, and it’s the most played sport in the United States. Soccer is the one sport that’s heavily played amongst Latinos in the West Coast. If you live in Tucson and have played in the Southside during the weekend, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
With SB 1070 now in effect, time will tell if there’s a decline of Latinos between the ages of 7-17 years old playing soccer because of their parents’ legal status. I can’t help but wonder if law enforcement will now target parks where families spend their weekends.
It’s a law which indirectly targets legal residents and American-born Latinos. Imagine going to a sporting event and you’re pulled aside because you look suspicious. It’s easy to say “if you have proper ID, it’s not a big deal”. Wrong! Being pulled aside is an embarrassing experience especially while others are looking on.
This law has the potential of affecting the U.S. National Team when they have to travel to Mexico, and other South American countries for future World Cup qualifiers. In the past, the U.S. players have discussed the hostility they’ve had to endure when playing in those countries. If the hostile environment wasn’t enough, the players may have to worry about their lives being in danger. Despite the fact that some of those players are Latino, opposing countrymen are only going to see the U.S. colors on them.
The ramifications of SB 1070 could cost the United States the World Cup bid for 2018. Will the Mexican National Team and others want to play in Arizona knowing full well that their countrymen may be targeted by law enforcement? Even if the games were being played, attendance could drop in protest because the majority of the crowds are pro-Mexico.
Imagine if world caliber teams such as Brazil and Argentina informed FIFA that they will not participate in the World Cup 2018 because it was being held in the United States.
This could create a domino effect in which Mexico and every South American country refuses to have their teams compete in the World Cup. Who knows? Imagine if the African countries also decided to get involved because of their personal experiences.
Sometimes in a world as complicating as ours, it’s the actions of professional athletes which forces the government to make necessary changes. It could happen and here’s why:
In 1990, Arizona voted to not observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday. As a result the NFL moved the Super Bowl to Pasadena, California, because the players (majority Black) made it clear that they would not partake in the game. Eventually, Arizona did recognize MLK Day as a holiday and have had two Super Bowls since then.
Obviously, I don’t have the solution for addressing the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States. I’m only a soccer fan who’s imagining the potential consequences of how this bill can affect American Soccer in Arizona.
When it’s all said, legal residents & citizens are going to have their rights violated in front of their family, peers, and strangers. Why? Because it’s the law in Arizona and it’s legal.
Cesar Diaz is the Soccer Editor for Latino Sports. Please feel free to send him your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.