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The Cocaine Corridor – from Medellin to Madeira

30th May 2021 – back office of the Casino de Nata, Madeira, Portugal. Run by Carlos Pereira, the sprawling casino has long since been rumored to serve as a money-laundering front for Andres Garcia, the emerging cocaine “kingpin” from Medellin, Colombia.

“Wait, what’s wrong with the casino? I thought we’re doing just fine.”

“Nothing is wrong with the casino Alvaro, but the boss wants to expand. And you know his passion for football.”

“Won’t that be too much in the public eye Carlos – it didn’t work out very well for Pablo Escobar did it?”

“Well it actually did, to be honest. That was a golden period for Colombian football. Atletico de Nacional even won the Copa Libertadores. Of all the things that eventually brought him down, football was certainly not one of them. Besides, it will be totally different for us. It’s as much a business proposition, as it is a passion project.”

“What do you mean?”

“As you know, Madeira is essentially our gateway to Europe. I can reveal to you that the club the boss has chosen for this journey is C.S. Marítimo right here in Madeira. They just finished 11th in the Liga NOS and are probably the best club in the region. We just signed the transfer deeds yesterday.”

“Wow, this is moving quickly! And who is going to be managing the club – I certainly don’t envy that man. ”

“That brings me neatly to my next point. The manager my dear Alvaro, is going to be you!”

“WHAT?! You are kidding me right?! I have no experience – why doesn’t he get in a real football manager instead?”

“He can’t take any such chance and expose our workings to someone not in the circle. You are the only person who at least has some football experience at the semi-professional level. The boss wants you to take over immediately, and you will start studying for your coaching qualifications as you manage the team. I will be taking over as the Managing Director of the Club.”

“I still cannot believe this. And I cannot understand why the manager needs to be someone in the circle.”

“Let me give you some more information. You know how our product moves – from Colombia, sometimes Venezuela, through the Dominican or Jamaica, sometimes a stop at Senegal or Cape Verde, and then finally here to Madeira. Now as manager of the club, you will be buying players & staff only from these countries. We have a set of agents we will work with, who will ensure the money reaches the right hands from there. The focus of course will remain primarily on Colombian players, as the boss wants our club to become the gateway for them into Europe.”

“Okay, so that’s how we will get the money out – but how do we get it in?”

“It’s simple – just like the casino – a major part of the football club’s revenue is generated in cash, through ticket sales, F&B and merchandize. Maritimo averaged approximately 5k per home game last season, which is just over half of the stadium capacity. The unrealized potential is massive. We will need to get the club into European competition quickly – more games means more money, more sponsorship, and more everything. Eventually we will also probably need to build a new stadium. Imagine the potential with that! Apparently Arsenal spent over $500 million on their new stadium, and they weren’t even trying to overspend!”

“Okay, so manage the club, buy primarily Colombian players with some from the other countries we work with, get them into Europe. Seems simple enough!”

“Not just into Europe though. You know the boss is ambitious and wants to be the best at everything he gets into. He wants us to win the Portuguese title within 5 years, and eventually compete for the Champions League with a core of Colombian players. But anyhow, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One step at a time.”

“I have a feeling I am going to find myself back on the streets in a few months time…”

“Don’t be a pessimist Alvaro! Let’s get this show on the road. The press conference to announce the takeover and you as new manager is scheduled for tomorrow. Let’s go!”  

Welcome to the Estádio do Marítimo, a cute little stadium nestled away near the shoreline in Madeira, soon to become one of the largest money laundering hubs of Western Europe.

More reading for those interested:

The Cocaine Corridor from South America to Europe

Pablo Escobar’s Tryst with Football

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