Cochabamba, Bolivia | We have read of Bolivia President-elect Evo Morales‘s footballing passions, but until now had not come across a direct account. In 2004, however, Web logger Gabriel Iriarte Rico and friends invited Morales to play during a match in Morales’s central Bolivian power base of Cochabamba. Iriarte Rico recalls, according to a translation from Global Voices contributor Eduardo Avila, that Morales played with the simplicity that has characterized the Amerindian’s ascent to the presidency in Dec 18 elections. “I called for him to pass me the ball and he did, he wasn’t selfish, although a little chubby perhaps,” Iriarte Rico writes.
Even with his good ball-handling skills, he was not a show-off. On that dirt field at the Cala Cala sports complex, I remember seeing him draw a penalty call and his sudden fall, from which he didn’t complain. He didn’t insist on kicking the penalty, even though the others did insist that he take it. After approaching the ball in a shy manner, he drilled the accurate shot that made the goalkeeper lunge. If Evo retains many of those characteristics as president of Bolivia that he demonstrated on the field, the entire team will be successful, maybe we’ll even go to the next World Cup.
The president-elect’s simplicity extends to his wardrobe. Morales thus far has favored a striped sweater for visits abroad, causing speculation as to whether he will shun coat and tie for his swearing-in on Jan 22, or whether Bolivia’s first indigenous leader in more than 500 years might attend the ceremony in native dress.