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 By Tom Marshall

Rafa Marquez reiterates necessity for Liga MX, Mexico players' union

Rafa Marquez is at the forefront of Liga MX players' push for a union.

Mexico and Atlas captain Rafa Marquez stressed on Tuesday that Liga MX players must come together to improve their bargaining power with club owners and the Mexican federation.

The 37-year-old has reportedly been setting up a new and independent players' union and didn't shy away from highlighting the problems players face in the Liga MX at present, such as teams like Chiapas not paying wages on time.

"What has happened in other teams in Mexico keeps happening," said Marquez in a news conference in Guadalajara ahead of Atlas' Clausura 2017 opener on Sunday against Toluca. "[The owners] treat [the players] however they want and some [players stay silent to] try to keep their jobs and not make things worse."

"We keep pushing and working so that in the future the player has a voice and vote," added Marquez.

Chiapas have regularly been accused of paying players late and the squad protested last season by not attending pregame meet-ups, but stopped short of a proposed slow-down during the last game of the Apertura in November, against Marquez's Atlas.

"There are cases in which players disappear [from the game], or are threatened, or they are kicked out of the profession," continued the former Barcelona defender. "We have to evolve because even FIFA is trying to regulate these things and we hope that we can regulate here in Mexico."

ESPN Mexico reported back in November that a players' union led by Marquez and other Liga MX veterans such as Rubens Sambueza, Oscar "Conejito" Perez and "Chaco" Gimenez was in the works. Players have regularly complained about practices such as the "Gentlemen's Pact" -- in which players aren't free to move domestically even when a contract runs out -- and the "Draft," which is a biannual transfer deadline day on which team owners meet to trade players.

Marquez declared himself against the transfer "draft," which Chivas coach Matias Almeyda has said is degrading to players, who sometimes don't have a say in where they end up.

"I agree with what Almeyda says," stressed Marquez, who has just signed a new one-year contract with Atlas. "It is the only league in which this type of players market happens and in which the player doesn't have access or a voice to decide to go [to another club] or not. That has to end."

Marquez didn't expand on exactly how any potential union would function, but indicated it would be "something important."

"We are in a process of trying to solidify so the players aren't scared of getting frozen out," Marquez said. "It is a process, it is something that has to be very secure, because those that govern and control [the Mexican game] are those that rule the country in Mexico. We can't fight with them, we have to have a dialogue with them."

At present, the Mexican federation (FMF) has a players' commission to deal with complaints, but it is linked to the FMF and isn't an independent body.

The Clausura 2017 gets underway on Friday, just 11 days after Tigres were crowned Apertura 2016 champion.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.

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