The Venezuelan Soccer Federation claims that the under-20s national women’s soccer team was “largely insulated” from the food crisis in Venezuela, where citizens have been forced to raise pet rabbits for food, and even hunt flamingos.
“Socialism is good, actually” might be on the mouth of every Internet leftist, but those living under the heel of failed Marxist policies struggle to feed themselves.
Venezuelan soccer coach Kenneth Zseremeta blamed the squad’s poor performance at the recent Bolivarian Games in Colombia on malnutrition, where it was favored to win, but came in third place.
Following the competition, the Panamanian-born coach praised his players for their effort, exceeding all expectations despite suffering from what he called a “tremendously” poor state of nutrition.
“When they give me the test results showing malnutrition, I start to tear up,” Zseremeta said in his remarks to the press.
Zseremeta previously led the women’s national team to the semifinals of the under-17 World Cup in 2014, which is the farthest the country had gone in the sport, in either male or female categories.
According to the Associated Press, his comments “touched a nerve” among Venezuelans who struggle to feed themselves. The Venezuelan economy continues to sink under triple-digit inflation and the citizens of the formerly prosperous, oil-rich nation contend with food and medicine shortages.
In Venezuela’s crisis-wracked socialist economy, hungry citizens have been forced to eat their pets and kill wild animals, including anteaters and flamingos, for food.
In September, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro was criticized for donating millions of dollars in relief funds to Hurricane Harvey victims while starving citizens were photographed butchering dogs in the street for meat.
Venezuelan soccer authorities dismissed Zseremeta’s comments, arguing that the women on the national soccer team are insulated from the food crisis, and eat five days a meal when training for competitions, according to the Associated Press.
However, an undated medical report allegedly prepared by the country’s sports ministry and published by local newspaper El Nacional paints a starkly different picture—at least seven players on the team suffered from either malnutrition or were at nutritional risk.
Since being fired, the coach is standing by his remarks. Zseremeta called on FIFA to investigate Venezuela’s sports minister, Pedro Infante, for interfering in the Venezuelan Soccer Federation, where he serves as vice president.
In a Venezuelan-run radio interview in Orlando, Florida, Zseremeta suggested that the country “isn’t far off from being sanctions” by FIFA.