A football match in Paraguay this summer has the chance to make a meaningful impact on the world’s climate. That’s because at the end of the game, an actor representing the World Wide Fund for Nature will throw his pads into the ground. The resulting dust, which will rain from the sky, is then destined to blanket every square inch of the planet.
This aim is almost single-handedly made possible by the Luchador League, an association of 10 players who spend their days performing manly rituals on the football pitch. “A couple of years ago, I suggested to my fellow players that we do something that would have a serious impact on the planet,” Pedro Alberto, a 52-year-old player, says.
Argentine players Pedro Alberto and Garyo “Diko” Millar. (World Wide Fund for Nature)
For an extra $1 million (some $16,000 each), Carlos Blanco, a manager with the WWF, will provide a groomed target for the dust, which is then whipped about the field by the players. The version of the event occurring in the South American country will not, however, include the “’doom breath’” — an instant smoking ritual where a player holds his breath until his face goes bright red, eyes bulging, before spitting out massive smokey fumes and burning his jersey.
Between the sun and shadow of the soccer ball. (World Wide Fund for Nature)
The first Luchador League matches were held in the Torremolinos area of Spain in 1981, and the idea for the game was borrowed from the American Wiffle ball, which had been popular in the 1970s. Players generally run from one end of the field to the other, taking part in drills and shadowing each other. Some run even faster than the field itself.
Pedro Alberto uses a projector to read written instructions. (World Wide Fund for Nature)
However, training in Luchador is anything but mass aerobic activity. Instead, the players are forced to pretend to have a range of physical ailments, and participate in high-speed drills. “They spend a lot of time in their fans’ faces, making funny faces, and they sometimes pretend to have lost an eye or a hand or their penis,” Blanco says. “Sometimes they need their shoes off to work.”
Another practitioner of Luchador. (World Wide Fund for Nature)
The drummers and goalscorers of this subculture aren’t after total transformation. Indeed, the group of 10, all Argentine or Paraguayan men, insist they are against corruption. They also don’t necessarily have plans to chase after an environmental prize of their own.