Yesterday’s report on agent fees was as much a glimpse of that cottage industry as it was an update on player power. The $195 million siphoned off by lawyers, fathers, best friends and former night club doormen was the headline, but remember the silver lining: Players are moving all the time, to bigger places with better salaries, enjoying a hard-fought mobility that wasn’t available for most of soccer’s history. It’s a good thing, even if terrace whispers laced with anachronistic envy dog the Raheem Sterlings of the world.
In other ways, player power is taking a more traditional form, one of unity against deaf authorities. The Venezuelan men’s national team is just the latest example. According to reports, 15 Vinotinto players are threatening to quit unless federation coaches and officials are replaced. Should the players start their boycott, the ongoing 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign will be compromised.
Venezuela currently sit bottom of CONMEBOL’s 10-team, round-robin qualifying campaign, having failed to register a point through four rounds. Head coach Noel Sanvicente’s team is seven points back of the confederation’s final automatic Russia 2018 qualifying spot.
That gap could get much worse if the players don’t get a response. In a statement, as translated below by The Guardian, Venezuelan players insist the environment around the team must change immediately:
“We the players are no longer in agreement that this group of leaders of the FVF should continue as it’s not acceptable the way we’ve been treated and the way they’ve managed the project to take the national team to the World Cup,” read the statement.
“We strongly believe the team needs a complete managerial change lest we lose the work done over the last eight years.
“Our integrity is non-negotiable and the damage done can only be repaired by a total overhaul of the leaders of the FVF. We can’t continue playing in an environment so damaged by these leaders.”
Those eight years of progress have created expectations in a baseball-first country. In 2011, Venezuela reached the semifinals of Copa America, fostering to hopes the team would qualify for Brazil 2014. But the ensuing campaign proved a disappointment, transferring those expectations onto this cycle. Now, thanks to legacies like those of like former Borussia Moenchengladbach midfielder Juan Arango, Venezuela allows itself hope. Each qualifying campaign could be the first that ends with a World Cup.
Midfielder Tomas Rincon posted an image of the team’s letter on Twitter: