On July 8, while on assignment covering the World Cup, Argentinian journalist Jorge “Topo” López was killed in an auto accident in Sao Paulo. The taxi he was in while heading to his wife’s hotel what struck by another car. According to charges filed by the Military Police, the vehicle had just been stolen by three teenagers who were attempting to flee from local police.
Controversy still surrounds López’s death as emerging details have brought into question just how accidental the crash may or may not have been. On June 8, just before the start of the World Cup, López and his wife, Veronica Brunati, were caught in crossfire on the streets of Belo Horizonte. According to Argentinian news site Clarín (Spanish), the couple were in their car, when an approaching – and as-yet unidentified – 18 year old man drew his gun on them. Brunati saw the man approaching in time to warn López. He was able to drive away before either was injured.
“And I started screaming like crazy, ‘He has a gun! Accelerate! Accelerate!”
“The kid walked pointing towards us. Until it was our feet and fired. We close our eyes and turn heads, as if we could well run us the line of fire.”
While there is no official connection between the the two incidents, suspicions about the circumstances of López’s death remain for Brunati and many of the friends López had made in the soccer world. Images of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona holding “Justicia Para Topo” (Justice For Topo) signs have been shared by Brunati on her personal Twitter account. Diego Simeone and members of Boca Juniors have also spoken out, imploring Brazilian officials to investigate the crash further.
In a press conference before Bayern Munich’s Champions League match against Porto, Pep Guardiola wore a #JusticiaParaTopo shirt. As a result, Guardiola has today been charged by UEFA for an “incident of non-sporting nature”, for violating the governing body’s rules against the display of items or statements of a “political, offensive or provocative” nature. On May 21, a disciplinary committee will decide if Guardiola will be subject to a fine, or possibly even a one match ban for wearing the shirt.
While UEFA’s rules against “political, offensive or provocative” statements serves a purpose, it’s hard to see how Pep Guardiola wearing a t-shirt calling for a deeper investigation into his friend’s death could fall into that category. It’s possible that he will not receive any punishment for it, but the fact that he was even charged and a committee has to convene to determine the appropriateness of his statement is silly.
UEFA has tuned a blind eye to dozens of incidents or racism, sexism, homophobia, caustic political statements and violence across Europe for years, but this shirt, they believe to believe cause for a judiciary hearing. Cold bureaucracy can have its place in the administration of the sport, but Pep Guardiola – or anyone else’s – call for clarity for the sake of Jorge López’s loved ones isn’t the place to apply it.