Milton Melgar struggled to push through changes in Bolivian football as the government’s Sports vice-minister. Now he is trying as executive secretary of the players’ union Fabol.
Bolivia’s remarkable 6-1 victory over Argentina on April Fool’s Day looks like a flash in the pan and says a lot more about Diego Maradona’s deficient preparations and coaching than it does about the Bolivian team.
When a fine generation of Bolivian players took their nation to the World Cup in the United States in 1994, they crushed Venezuela 7-0 at home in the preliminaries, and 7-1 away.
Venezuela have improved dramatically but that they should win 1-0 in La Paz in Bolivia’s very next 2010 qualifier at home in June is an indictment of the state of Bolivian football.
As a Fabol statement says: “…with much pain and frustration we must recognise that the reality of our national team…is a faithful reflection of the reality of our clubs.”
The statement was put out by Fabol on September 15 after four successive losses since the Argentina rout. It said the players “resign expressly and for an indefinite time to represent our national team” until changes they are demanding in the running of the game are implemented.
The government at least recognised it was time to get moving on reforms the players had sought back in mid-decade when Melgar, one of the 1994 generation who played for both big Argentine teams River Plate and Boca Juniors, was Sports vice-minister.
Its acknowledgement of the need for action resulted in the players ending their boycott and turning up to prepare for their “dead rubber” qualifiers against Brazil in La Paz on October 11 and the last match away to Peru three days later.
Brazil had qualified for South Africa 2010 with three matches to spare and Bolivia, one from bottom of the South American group, had lost all chance of getting there, like Peru. So not too much should be read into the result from La Paz, a 2-1 win for Bolivia against a Brazil side without many key players.
Bolivian football is run by three separate bodies which means things take a long time, if ever, to get done. The Bolivian Football Federation (FBF) is an administrative body, the professional game is run by the Liga del Futbol Profesional Boliviano and amateur soccer comes under the National Football Association (LNF).
The Fabol says clubs are poorly managed, do not have their tax issues in order, must provide players with proper medical insurance and run poor or non-existent youth schemes. It would like to see all these problems addressed as well as the introduction of government means of raising revenue such as football pools, incentives for sponsorship and proper sports teaching in the schools.
Disciplinary matters take a long time to be resolved, too.
Bolivar are in the final of the Clausura championship with Blooming. Bolivar cannot theoretically call themselves Apertura champions because they were stripped of the title in July over the alleged fielding of an ineligible player and docked three points. This resulted in Real Potosi being declared winners. However, Bolivar appealed and the issue has yet to be concluded.
It took five years for The Strongest to be definitively be awarded the 2004 Clausura title following a wrangle over the nationality of one of their players.