LA PAZ – When Bolivian President Evo Morales deliberately kneed an opposing player in the testicles during a “friendly” soccer match, it sparked an outcry of accusations and criticism by the opposition.
“For me it was a display of abuse of power, of authority, against people powerless to do anything about it,” rightist lawmaker Norma Pierola told Efe, calling on Morales to apologize publicly for his aggressive behavior.
La Paz City Councilman Omar Rocha, of the centrist opposition, said that Morales’ attitude “is typical unsportsmanlike conduct of a player who doesn’t know how to play soccer.”
The president deliberately kneed rival player Daniel Cartagena, a La Paz municipal government official on the team captained by Mayor Luis Revilla.
When play was stopped and the referee was attending to another incident, Morales reacted with the kneeing in reprisal for having received an apparently accidental kick from Cartagena while the ball was in play.
Morales was not expelled and he played the whole match with some pain in one foot but managed to score a goal.
His office said Morales is injured and doctors recommended three to 10 days rest, though he has not interrupted his work and he met early Tuesday with media executives and journalists to discuss an anti-racism law.
At the end of Sunday’s match, a police officer tried to arrest Cartagena, but could not because of the opposition of Mayor Revilla, while presidential spokesperson Ivan Canelas said no one on Morales’ staff ordered an arrest.
Cartagena is taking two days’ leave to avoid the onslaught of the media, the municipal government said Tuesday.
Bolivian media have stressed the stir created by the video of the presidential kneeing released by Efe.
“Evo’s kneeing goes around the world” was the headline in Tuesday’s edition of Pagina Siete newspaper. EFE