Mexican hand-stitched football business could go under

Global Business

Mexican hand-stitched football business could go under

In a Mexican state reeling from rampant drug violence, a little town continues to produce hand-stitched footballs (soccer). But with competition growing overseas, this local industry is slowly dying.

CCTV America’s Martin Markovits has this report. Follow Martin Markovits on Twitter @MartinMarkovits

Mexican hand-stitched football business could go under

Growing overseas competition threatens Mexican hand-stitched football business.

In the mountains of Guerrero state, lies the impoverished town of Chichihualco, famous for its contributions to a national pastime. Its local industry produces hand-stitched, colorful footballs. It’s a tradition that is passed down through generations.

Football maker Martin Viosos learned how to stitch footballs from his parents when he was a little boy. But the work is barely enough to survive. He only makes 50 cents per ball, and , on average, only makes five per day. Still he has no choice. It’s among the few legal professions available to townspeople trapped in an area controlled by drug cartels.

“Here there are only seasonal jobs, like now when the corn harvest comes,” Viosos said. “And when that’s over the only job is to make footballs.”

In the 1960s, the town was the top maker of soccer balls in the country. During its production peak there were more than 70 workshops that produced tens of thousands of balls a month. Some of the biggest buyers included professional Mexican soccer clubs.

But Chichihualco’s hometown industry is in trouble. Since the implementation of the North America Free Trade Agreement in the mid-1990s, most Mexican clubs stopped purchasing soccer balls from producers in the town. Instead, the teams are buying them abroad, where they can get them for a much cheaper price.

Most of the balls come from China, which has dominated the market in the last few years. Balls from Chichihualco can cost two times more than those from China. Now, after several decades, there are only 15 workshops left.

Humberto Alcaron once had a thriving business that supplied balls for the Colibríes de Morelos football team. Now his business focuses mainly on recreation, if anything at all.

“The way business is going, it’s getting worse, we have been waiting three months and there have been no clients interested,” Alcaron said. “Clients who want 20,000 balls, go elsewhere.”

Alcaron said he believes unionizing the producers in this town would give them more clout and perhaps spur politicians in Mexico to help protect their industry from foreign competitors. Without intervention, it seems Chichihualco is destined to leave its football-making past behind.