FC Madureira, a lowly Brazilian 3rd division club from the outskirts of Rio de janeiro with few trophies or achievements to it’s name do, however, have the distinction of being one of the few teams to have played in front of Che Guevara during a tour to Cuba in 1963. Taking advantage of a surge of interest in Brazilian football after the explosive exploits of Garrincha and Pele during the World Cups of ’58 and ’62, as well as Che Guevara’s love of the game in what was then a traditionally baseball-loving nation, FC Madureira travelled at the invitation of Commandante Che to play a series of 5 matches which they all won.
Having gained valuable income from their trip to the Caribbean island in 1963, fifty years later they are now managing to derive further revenue from their original visit by commemorating the tour with a special edition match jersey incorporating the iconic image of Che Guevara within the design.
2013 FC Madueira ’63 Cuban Tour Home shirt
Having previously witnessed strong demand for a batch of 2008-09 adidas Cuba shirts we obtained a few years ago along with requests for CHE 58 name & numbering , there is a strong affinity among football fans for Che and his adopted home country. Born in Rosario, Argentina, he grew up with football in his blood, was a fan of his home town club, Rosario Central, and regularly played whenever he had the chance with locals or fellow revolutionaries he met on his travels around Latin America. As an asthmatic, he was often forced to play in goal and FC Madureira have also recognized this by launching a striking goalkeeper version of their tribute shirt in a vivid Cuban flag design incorporating the silhouette of Che.
2013 FC Madueira ’63 Cuban Tour Commemorative GK shirt
On many of their travels around Latin America, Che and his lifelong friend, Alberto Granado, often obtained food, lodging & occasional payment for help coaching local clubs. In one documented instance, Che and Alberto helped Chuquicamata beat their rivals Iquique in Chile and then later travelling to the San Pablo leper colony on the Peruvian Amazon where they played football every afternoon for weeks with the local lepers. Che recognized how the mass popularity of football throughout Latin America was a great means of communication and bonding, ”It is not just a simple game, it is a weapon of the revolution.”
Che for Ireland!
Had Che cured his asthma problem and focused on honing his football skills instead of guerrilla warfare then he could, on account of his ancestry, have opted to play for Ireland – his grandfather’s country of birth. Few know that Che Guevara was actually born Che Guevara Lynch on 28/6/1928 in Argentina, to Celia de la Serna y Llosa and Ernesto Guevara Lynch – his Irish surname quietly dropped later on although Irish republicans ensured he became one of them by immortalising him on a mural in Belfast with his father’s words ‘In my son’s veins flowed the blood of Irish rebels”
The news of his Irish blood sparked off some banter in the Subside Sports office as to what position would have best suited him. The general consensus was he would have been given the captain’s armband and take up a holding or defensive midfield position – his steely determination and ruthless dedication to the team cause making him an embryonic version of a latter day Roy Keane.
Amusingly there was also general consensus that Keane himself had a not too dissimilar demeanour to Che – if not in appearance then certainly in aura.
The recent launch of the FC Madureira commemorative shirts helps to strengthen a long association of Che with football – whether as a symbol of anti-establishment fan power at St Pauli, national pride as endorsed by the tattoo on Diego Maradona’s arm or social advancement as found at the Club Che Guevara in Argentina.