Friday , 22 September 2017
Home / Sports / Ball-making Mexico town fights to get back in the game

Ball-making Mexico town fights to get back in the game

By Yemeli Ortega | AFP News – 8 June 2016

Men manufacture footballs in Chichihualco town, Mexico's Guerrero State
Men manufacture footballs in Chichihualco town, Mexico’s Guerrero State

A shirtless man sits under a tree in a town in southern Mexico, stitching together a football. At the central square, several women congregate to make balls for the national pastime.

Others toil in workshops or inside their ramshackle homes: A grandmother sewing on a chair in her dirt-floor home, or a pregnant woman pulling threads in her kitchen while her six-year-old niece hands her panels of synthetic leather.

Hundreds work like this in Chichihualco, a town famous for hand-stitching colorful footballs for over 50 years in the mountains of the impoverished state of Guerrero.

In its heyday, Chichihualco made the balls that were kicked around on the pitches of Mexico’s first division clubs, and those used by the national team.

But competition from Asia, emigration to the United States and drug trafficking have relegated Chichihualco’s footballs to amateur recreational sales.

Mexico’s national squad, meanwhile, is using Adidas balls during practice for this month’s Copa America Centenario tournament in the United States.

Despite Chichihualco’s losing streak, entire families in the community of 25,000 people continue the tradition that they inherited from their parents and grandparents.

“All of us sew balls. Men, women, children. Even my husband. There’s no other work,” said Virginia Ramirez, 72, as she stitched together segments of vinyl in her small house with a dirt floor.

Ramirez has been making footballs since age 17. She has been doing this for so long that she doesn’t need a thimble to protect her leathery hands from the needle.

She earns 10 pesos (50 US cents) per ball and can make up to five per day.

“We are very poor. We don’t have beans or salt. We have nothing,” she said under a roof made of wood planks.

– ‘Can’t compete’ with Asia –

The first workshop in Chichihualco appeared in the 1960s, when a man named Eulalio Alarcon brought ball segments from Mexico City to have them stitched together.

Others in the community were inspired and 70 workshops opened, churning out 60,000 balls per month, said Mayor Alfredo Alarcon, who owns a football-making facility and is not related to Eulalio.

But today there are only 15 workshops and production has dropped to 15,000 balls per month, he said.

The workshops have machines to make and cut the synthetic leather into panels, which are then sewn together by villagers in their homes.

The balls then go back to the workshops, where they are pumped full of air and finishing touches are applied.

Alberto Morales, who opened his factory in the 1960s, stared recently at the 1,200 balls that his facility produces every week.

They come in hot red, shiny black or lime green and each sell for $3 to $5, leaving Morales with an eight-cent profit per ball.

His company remains afloat despite competition from cheaper balls made in China and Pakistan, but things used to be better.

“We are stuck. We can’t produce more because we can’t reinvest in material or machines,” Morales said as he held one of the 200 balls that first division club Tigres of Monterrey ordered for its fans.

“We could compete with balls from anywhere in the world. Our ball is really spherical, sewn by hand, while the Chinese ones go all over the place when you kick them,” he said.

Fewer people are making footballs than before, as they can find more lucrative work than 10 pesos per ball.

The drug trade has become an option in a region known as the country’s top producer of opium poppies.

“Some people don’t want to sew anymore. They prefer to cultivate poppies in the mountains. They earn more,” said Arturo Alarcon, a distant cousin of the mayor who runs a workshop that makes fluorescent balls.

– 17 bodies –

Chichihualco has not escaped the pressure of drug cartels that have spread fear across Guerrero, which had the highest murder rate among states in Mexico last year, with 56.5 homicides per 100,000 people.

In December, 17 bodies were discovered at the bottom of a ravine, including eight that were burned.

The labor force has also dwindled due to migration to the United States. Alarcon estimates that 70 percent of the town has gone across the border and sends money back home, fueling much of Chichihualco’s economy.

Workshops have outsourced some of the work to surrounding communities and even a local prison, where inmates produce 5,000 balls per week.

“The boys (prisoners) put work into it. It helps them to not think about bad things,” Arturo Alarcon said as he sat amid dozens of balls, some painted with the face of Spider-Man or the words “FIFA World Cup Brasil.”

Some 40 families sew balls in Chichihualco and another 200 do the work in surrounding communities.

“Ten pesos per ball isn’t much, right?” said Erasmo Flores, a 43-year-old-farmer and musician who has been sewing balls since the age of six.

“It’s not enough to get lunch. One eats what God gives him,” said Flores, who has a heart tattooed on his arm, as he made his second football of the day while sitting under a tree in front of his house.

Check Also


林冠英(中)于週四在St Giles酒店总经理吴乃庆(左起)及檳州会议及展览局首席执行员艾斯威陪同下,推介檳城超越会议行程手册。(网上图片) 星期五,22/09/2017  檳州会议及展览局(PCEB)推出「檳城超越会议行程」手册,欢迎来檳参与商务活动的人士或团体,在出席会议之余,也可趁机游檳城,体验这座集美食与观光景点于一身的城市。 檳州首长林冠英週四为有关手册主持推介仪式,他在致词时指出,继昨日宣布檳城將在2019年举办亚洲首场世界海產大会后,今日推出另一个引起国际商务活动市场关注的檳城產品。 林冠英表示,「檳城超越会议行程」手册是一个综合指南,把未经过滤体验檳城的精华,以及广泛的活动介绍给商务活动的代表们。 他表示,商务活动工业已证明成为引领檳城经济的主要驱动力,去年檳州创下1251场活动,估计带来8亿800万令吉的经济收益。 「今年,我將要求檳州会议及展览局打破10亿令吉的目標。」 冀包含主题乐园 他指出,有关手册介绍了不少檳城的美食及景点,不过他希望下次推出的手册將会包含主题乐园,因为光大TheTop今年杪將会增设新玩意,让民眾挑战在光大65楼高的建筑物以外走动,明年则有「笨猪跳」(bungy jump)。 此外,他说,檳州会议及展览局是在5个以檳城为基地的管理公司的諮询下,打造这个行程手册,並于下週在泰国举办的贸易活动中登场。   图文来自:网路

Honesty saves the day for ‘cash in trash’ owner

Friday, 22 September 2017 :  A woman had a scare when her stash of more …

Leave a Reply

WooCommerce Themes Free