Indios fight for survival in city gripped by drug wars

MEXICO CITY - Players of Mexican side Indios have been victims of extortion and the subject of death threats amid the grisly drug wars plaguing Ciudad Juarez, club president Francisco Ibarra said on Tuesday.

The border town opposite El Paso in Texas and a key entry point for drugs smuggled into the United States, is the front-line for some of the bloodiest turf wars raging between rival trafficking gangs in Mexico.

"Some of them (players) have been extorted, our third choice goalkeeper left from one day to the next because he had been threatened with death," Ibarra told reporters.

"The last thing they are thinking about is playing. Organised and unorganised crime has kidnapped my city."

The city is patrolled by thousands of soldiers and federal police officers sent by the government after it disbanded the municipal police force that had links to criminal gangs fighting for control of the area.

According to figures from the broadcaster Milenio Television, there were 1,130 drugs-related deaths in Ciudad Juarez in March, 2,883 so far this year and 19,548 during the presidency of Felipe Calderon since December 2006.

"Indios is a sporting project, but above all a social one which does a lot towards (helping to deal with) the problem we have in Juarez," Ibarra said.

"It hurts me that every six months (people) are trying to sell Indios off. Indios is not for sale, it belongs to Juarez."

The team were promoted to the first division in 2008 and enjoyed a fairy-tale run to the semi-finals of last year's Clausura championship.

But after a poor 2009-10 season, they will be back in the second division next season. They are bottom of the present Clausura championship standings.

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