the Disillusioned kid: Bizarre Story of the Week
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Friday, October 22, 2004

Bizarre Story of the Week

From Tuesday's Guardian:
Football clubs have been known to show their soft side, supporting the poor and helping the sick and handicapped. But it is not often that a top European club hands its shirt and its cash to an army of balaclava-wearing guerrillas demanding autonomy in a large chunk of their country.

Inter Milan has donated ?5,000 (£3,475), an ambulance and the captain's No 4 black and blue team shirt to one of the last strongholds of the ragtag Zapatista army in a gesture of solidarity for the indigenous people of Chiapas in southern Mexico.

Argentinian star Javier Zanetti, the team captain, talked his club into donating its changing room fines for late arrival or using mobile phones to help villagers rebuild after the village of Zinacantán was reportedly attacked by government military forces in April. "We believe in a better world, in an unglobalised world, enriched by the cultural differences and customs of all the people. This is why we want to support you in this struggle to maintain your roots and fight for your ideals," Zanetti wrote in a note to the village, posted along with the first instalment of ?2,500.
For anyone not aware, the Ejercitio Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN, "the Zapatistas") is a guerilla army which emerges in Chiapas in 1994, demanding autonomy for indigenous people living in the region. They have been an inspiration to those struggling around the world and received support from various sources, although this donation may well be a first.

As if the story wasn't strange enough already, it appears that the donations have the blessing of the team's oil baron owner, Massimo Moratti. Regardless of its unusual source the Zapatistas are presumably not unhappy about the support, which the article suggests has already allowed villagers to rebuild homes and water pipes in Zinacantán which were damaged in the attack. Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos thanked the footballers in one of his famous communiques, "Brothers and sisters of the Italian team, I wish you the greatest success in your sporting campaign."

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