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May 1, 2014

The terrifying life of Chivas

Ricardo La Volpe was sacked as manager of Guadalajara after team owner Jorge Vergara accused him of "inappropriate conduct" toward a female staff member at the club.

LOS ANGELES -- We were in the middle of something wonderful: a European semifinal in London and were headed for an evening where two of the so-called "greats" of Mexican soccer, Cruz Azul and America, would appear on the scene of the Liguilla. And then out of nowhere, Chivas owner Jorge Vergara stood before the microphones in the conference room and told us another horror story about the Guadalajara club. The trees of Valle Verde, which looked green, leafy and fruity until a few hours ago, were caught on fire once more in the middle of another scandal.

- Report: Chivas fire manager La Volpe

As is typical in the institutional life of Chivas, on Monday Ricardo La Volpe remained the key figure, the least guilty about failure and his plans and dreams were being woven. Less than 48 hours later, on Wednesday, he had ceased to be the top dog. He had left the club.

I cannot and I should not pre-empt any judgment, especially when it's a sensitive issue: a human relationship. The only reality, definitive and unobjectionable, is that La Volpe has left Chivas and with him some of the illusions that could help reverse Guadalajara's current situation in the Mexican league.

To delve into the subject is also an invitation to speculate. Vergara's statement is the only thing we have so far: "This is the most painful and difficult conference that I've ever had to give, as of this moment, La Volpe is separated from the institution for misconduct with a female member of the staff." Period. No more.

The problem is what Chivas said. La Volpe's professional integrity won't be hurt. That's not at stake; what is at stake is his reputation, his value as a human being.

I've known Ricardo La Volpe for many years. I know about his sensitive nature and about his difficulty to interact with his peers, but he is and has always been a respectful guy, a man close to his wife, his daughters, his family. I have no reason to doubt him or rather, I can't believe that a 62-year-old man, with many years of experience in the sport, would commit such an offense.

Also, on the other hand, it must be pointed out that Chivas is an institution that's different from other Mexican soccer teams -- some behaviors in their internal policies are different from those of the rest. In Vergara's Guadalajara, many of the methods that gave a company like Omnilife success were applied, and in this Chivas the presence of Mrs. Angelica Fuentes (wife of Mr. Vergara) was also added, which has also given the company a different profile. If Mr. La Volpe, with all that La Volpe represents and means to the sport, was disrespectful to an employee (female or male) I would totally applaud what Chivas did on Wednesday.

The problem here is that we have too little information, too many versions and yet another horror story about Chivas. Where will it all end? I don't know. The only thing clear to me is that if on Monday the present and future of one of the sport's most traditional clubs in Mexico was in "check," two days later it's close to "checkmate."

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