The FIFA World Cup is meant to be a festival where football fans interact and mingle together, have fun, support their national teams or adopted teams wholeheartedly and temporarily forget about the hassles of work.
However, this year’s edition of the Mundial is not one that Luis Felipe Gómez, the Regional Manager (Europe-Asia) of Avianca Cargo, a Colombian airline, would want the memory to linger in his heart forever after he was sacked by his company for getting involved in an alcohol smuggling incident.
Gomez travelled to Russia to support Colombia, his national team, and went to the Mordovia Arena to watch their first game against Japan on June 19. However, a controversy erupted not over the actual match itself but after a Facebook post showed on video a set of fans, mainly Colombians, who smuggled alcohol in a fake binocular into the stadium.
It is illegal to take alcoholic drinks and other beverages into the stadium, especially those brands that are not of the official partners of FIFA, the tournament organisers.
Nos parece bacanísimo esto pero nos enverracamos cuando nos raquetean en los aeropuertos? pic.twitter.com/8EyKO4idwE
— Martin Santos (@MartinSantosR) June 19, 2018
Gomez, probably because of the top management position he occupies, was swiftly identified in the video as one of the persons who partook in the illegal jamboree.
But by the end of the match, the word “binoculares” was trending on Twitter in Colombia.
The video, which went viral, caused a stir in the South American country’s media and forced a reaction from the country’s Foreign Office and even from Juan Manuel Santos, the son of Colombian President, who all expressed their displeasure over the incident.
And guess what happened next? Less than 24 hours after the video surfaced online, Avianca Cargo wielded the big stick on its employee by terminating his contract.
In a statement posted on its Twitter page on June 20, the company said it sacked Gomez because his “behaviour violated the law and norms in place within the World Cup event, by consuming liquor which was illegally brought into one of the stadiums.”
It added that such behaviour “goes against our principles and values as a company.”
Guilty as charged, Gomez went onto his wife’s Facebook page the same day after his employment was terminated in the public glare to apologise to Colombians for his actions and the embarrassment the incident had brought to the country.
He described the incident as “15 seconds of a badly interpreted video” and wondered why such misdemeanour will destroy all he had worked for in life.
“I went to say, ‘Hi,’ to some friends. They offered me a drink. I received it in a moment of euphoria and happiness because I was seeing Colombia in a World Cup.
“I am trying to grasp how 15 seconds of unfortunate, out-of-context, and badly interpreted video can end the honour of a person and an entire life of trying to do things right.
“I thank you again for your support.”
Well, this should serve as a lesson to everyone that wherever and whenever you find yourself in the mood of celebration, celebrate responsibly.