Say Hello To My Little Friend

October 23, 2008 – 1:50 am by Matthew Glenesk

The Cincinnati Bengals have nothing on Mapaches de Nueva Italia.

Mapaches (Raccoons) is a third-division soccer team in Mexico.

This week, they were expelled by the FMF (Mexico’s football federation) for the team’s link to the “La Familia” drug cartel.

And ladies and gentlemen, here were your 2008 Mapaches!

Here they are on a trip to San Jose, Calif., complete with a Mariachi soundtrack.

The Raccoons will disappear from the standings and all of their records will be deleted.

Two weeks ago, seven members of the team were detained by federal authorities.

One of the seven arrested was the team’s owner Wenceslao Alvarez. Alvarez is considered one of the main financial operators of “La Familia” and the Gulf Cartel.

Alvarez was seized (along with $7.6 million of his assets in Atlanta banks by the DEA) in the joint U.S.-Mexico operation “Operation Project Reckoning.” 

(Anyone else for allotting confiscated funds to the $700 billion bank bailout? Just a thought.)

According to the chief prosecutor’s office, Alvarez is suspected of “controlling the purchase, reception, transport and distribution of marijuana and cocaine destined for the U.S.”

“La Familia” first came to light in 2006 in Mexico’s western state of Michoacan, where the Raccoons play. In Sept. 2006, “La Familia” left a note for law enforcement along with five severed heads. The note read:

“La Familia does not kill for money, does not kill women, does not kill innocent people. It only kills those who deserve to die. Everyone should know this. Divine justice.”

The group has 4,000 members, who each earn between $1,500 and $2,000 a month, according to Ricardo Ravelo, a local news correspondent. Along with running the soccer team, it seems they had quite a stake in local politics as well. “La Familia” has ties to civil servants in almost of all the state’s 113 municipalities. 

“La Familia” has claimed responsibility for a number of beheadings, murders, shootouts and armed attacks against local law enforcement. The group is suspected of engineering the Sept. 15 grenade attack that killed eight in Morelia.

Organized crime in soccer is not a new concept.

This summer in Italy (surprise!), a consortium with links to the Naples-based mafia attempted to buy Serie A outfit Lazio, known for its fascist fan base.  Lazio president Giorgia Chinaglia was among the 10 people arrested for gaining funds through violence and intimidation. 

In Serbia, teams have been run by warlords. 

I wonder what would have happened had Al Capone owned the Chicago White Sox.

Why the Sox and not the Cubs?

One, Capone was a South Sider and was consistently at war with the Northsiders, notably Hymie Weiss. And two, the White Sox had already shown a propensity to get their hands dirty thanks to the 1919 Black Sox Scandal

“Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

A few things would have been different under a Capone regime.

First off, the Sox would have finished higher than fifth (something they failed to do during Capone’s criminal heights from 1926 to 1932). If you think Steinbrenner’s tough…

Wrigley’s gum would take a noticeable and mysterious dip in sales allowing Dubble Bubble to get a leg up in the Gum Wars of the 1930s.

Names like Moe Berg (most interesting story in baseball history), Chick Autry, Sarge Connally, Frank Sigafoos, Lu Blue, Liz Funk and Smead “Smudge” Jolley wouldn’t have made a White Sox roster.

He’d stick with guys from the 1932 team with mobster names already, like Charlie Biggs, Archie Wise (Guy) and Bump Hadley.

He’d probably also bring in guys like Ski “Spinach” Melillo, Tony “Cooch” Cuccinello, Sal Gliatto, Tony “Push ‘Em Up Tony” Lazzeri and Joe “Dody” Cicero.

(Capone got his start in Cicero, Ill., fighting the local city government. Literally, he shoved the mayor down the steps of town hall).

Any locker room celebration would include bootlegged Canadian whiskey or Templeton Rye.

Whose to say Capone didn’t have his hand in Chicago’s Major League Baseball scene? He often took his son to White Sox and Cubs game in box seats surrounded by bodyguards and the ball players would ask for his autograph.

Maybe he was signing their paychecks.

Baseball and its dirty little secrets…

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