Josef Martinez releases open letter to explain he won't play for Venezuela

Josef Martinez stares - Atlanta United

Josef Martinez has played over 50 times at senior level for the Venezuela national team, but the Atlanta United star has penned an open letter explaining he does not plan to accept future call-ups.

Martinez cites an "ever-deteriorating professional relationship" with Venezuela national team head coach Rafael Dudamel as the source for his decision, explaining working with the manager has negatively impacted his mental health. The striker claims things came to a head at the 2019 Copa America, where La Vinotinto reached the quarterfinals, summarizing it as a "really bad experience."

The entire letter is below, translated from Spanish.

To all Venezuela and Vinotinto fans,

Warm greetings and vinotinto forever. Yes, forever. Because ever since I've known, and when I was dreaming of being a soccer player, playing with balls made from cloth in my neighborhood of "El Combate" in Valencia [Venezuela], the Venezuelan national team has been the most important thing in my sports career and probably in my personal life. I've had the privilege to be part of several national team cycles: youth and senior teams. Always giving my all for the shirt we love that unites us.

I've experienced great emotions and achievements in my career with the national team; as well as difficult moments, tough ones, that have allowed me to grow as a soccer player and human being. The national team is my great love. A team I always want to see and represent. A team I always want to be with.

But nevertheless, in recent times I've suffered more than I've enjoyed being with this great love known as La Vinotinto. I won't beat around the bush, that's never been the way I am. The reason is clear and specific: an ever-deteriorating professional relationship with the current national team head coach. It's been three years putting up with a situation that doesn't match the total commitment that I've always shown toward the national team whether that was on the field, on the substitutes' bench or in the stands. I've been in all these places. And I've accepted and honored them without asking for an explanation, whether I play or not. The reason for my deep discomfort, pain, sadness and disappointment is not on the sporting side. It's emotional: it's a mental toll every time I go to the current national team and it's a product of the behavior toward me from the person leading the technical staff, with the 2019 Copa America being the event that affected me most emotionally and on the sporting side. It was a really bad experience. 

I've seen and experienced instances that I'm not sharing. I suffered them and looked the other way for a long time, but the moment has come that I won't be accepting them any more. And therefore, I would prefer that the current national team coach does not call me up any more while he's in charge. Furthermore, my mental health demands that I do this. I also want to make abundantly clear that I am NOT declining to continue to wear my country's shirt, the country I love the most. I am NOT closing the doors on continuing to represent Venezuela. It's that I prefer not to be there until there is a change that allows for the return of the essence of what it truly means to represent a country and not a personal project. Nothing and no one should be above the national team. 

I hope that you can understand what I've laid out and the pain that this causes me. But even more painful is being part of something that has stopped being the Vinotinto of the whole country, and from the inside is turning into a space for personal interests. 

To the Venezuelan Soccer Federation, my absolute gratitude and commitment to defend VENEZUELA when the team gets back to this -- to defend the national team and the country.

To all Venezuelans: I know that one day we will meet again wearing the VINOTINTO shirt.

I say goodbye by requesting from my VINOTINTO heart that this situation is handled in the most sensible, understanding and professional way possible. 

This the 25th of September, 2019. 

Josef Martinez