In their short, one-season history, Atlanta United has developed a reputation for having MLS’ best fanbase, and those same fans are stepping off the field and into the community with their latest initiative. Delta 17, a supporters group that has the self-professed goal of providing “supporters with opportunities to expand their cultural backgrounds and personal lives by enjoying the diversity provided in our group,” has seemingly been inspired by the team’s best player into support of Venezuela, and they are encouraging all Atlanta United fans to donate money and supplies for the South American country.
Josef Martinez, who was born in Valencia, Venezuela, has been tearing it up on the field for Atlanta this season since coming over from Italy’s first-division side Torino–18 goals in 17 games speaks for itself–but equally as important has been his commentary on what is happening his homeland. In an interview with soccer super-site FourFourTwo, Martinez said that he wants his play to bring attention to the plight of his homeland: “I hope people say that there’s a Venezuelan who is doing good things, and that someone knows about Venezuela because of me.”
Then, when asked about the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers in CONMEBOL, the 24-year-old striker said that the games shouldn’t happen, especially since Venezuela is already eliminated from contention: “We can’t play…it’s a celebration when the national team plays, and my country is not in the mood to celebrate right now. Venezuela is suffering a lot. People are dying.” Back in May, he also recorded a video of support for Venezuela while wearing the country’s vinotinto soccer kit:
Since the start of 2017, Venezuela has seen protests, violent government retribution and repression, a referendum, and a new constituents’ assembly put in place by President Nicolás Maduro’s administration that effectively tightens their control over what was once South America’s richest nation.
Perhaps inspired by Martínez’s vocal support for Venezuela, or just to show their appreciation for the fourth-leading scorer in MLS, Delta 17 stepped up to send supplies to the beleaguered country. The group is working with Georgia-based Venezuelan community center ALMAS, and the supplies will be sent to two non-government organizations in Venezuela: Haz La Diferencia and Primeros Auxillios UCV, according to SB Nation’s Dirty South Soccer blog.
To donate supplies to the Delta 17 campaign, you can order them online (full list of needed donations here) and have them mailed to 250 Lewis Brown Dr., Dahlonega, GA 30533. If you’d prefer to donate money, Haz La Diferencia has a GoFundMe page with a $10,000 goal.