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Peruvian football is trying to get its house in order

By Rex Gowar
If Peru carry on sliding down the FIFA world rankings it will not be long before they slip out of the top 100, something inconceivable for a nation with a rich footballing history, that reached the World Cup quarter-finals in 1970 in Mexico where they went out to the eventual champions, the Brazil of Pele, Tostao and Gerson, having eliminated Argentina in the qualifiers, and the last eight again in 1978.

FIFA’s August rankings had Peru in 89th place, the lowest in South America, below Venezuela in 54th and Bolivia 63rd. Peru’s steady decline, with occasional upturns that did not last long, had them ranked 41 in July 2006, 81 in October 2006, 50 in July 2007 and 72 in January this year.

Such is Peru’s disarray that the “seleccion” was one of only two South American teams not to use the August 12 international break for a friendly, the other being Bolivia.

Many would argue what was the point of an extra match for a team at the bottom of the South American qualifying group for the 2010 World Cup and likely to remain there to the end.

Before the last four rounds of qualifiers in September and October, Peru had seven points from 14 matches and were five points behind ninth-placed Bolivia and 20 adrift of leaders Brazil.

However, it was never too soon to look for a new start, without waiting for the present agony to end. That was the thinking of critics of the Peruvian Football Federation, who want to see chairman Manuel Burga out.

Peru’s players told the FPF they would not heed coach Jose del Solar’s call-up for the September qualifiers against Uruguay and Venezuela unless the governing body committed itself to making reforms in the running of the domestic game.

Peru, suspended by FIFA for nearly a month late last year over Peruvian government interference in FPF affairs following Burga’s election, suffers from chronic indebtedness and crowd violence.

“We hope Mr Manuel Burga opens the door a bit more to people who know football and gives them the chance to get involved in the FPF,” respected former English Premier League player Nolberto Solano told the local news agency Andina.

A FPF meeting aimed at resolving the conflict was postponed in the second week of August until close to the August 20 deadline given by the players. That is the date national team coach Jose del Solar was to have named Peru’s foreign-based players to his squad for September’s matches.

The (FPF) capitulated, agreeing among other things that clubs will be forced to pay pension and social security contributions to players while coaches and their assistants would be protected by labour legislation.

It also banned midday kick offs on synthetic pitches, which have led to players complaining of intolerable conditions because of the heat.

Another of the players’ complaints included excessive sanctions like the huge ban handed to national team goalkeeper Leao Butron of San Martin in June for violent conduct in an incident that merited a more lenient punishment since what referee Percy Rojas alleged had happened and what many observers saw differed greatly. Butron was suspended for three months plus one match before the ban was reduced, on appeal, to seven matches.

After learning of the success of the appeal, Butron, in an implicit criticism of a one-sided approach to the incident, said: “I wouldn’t want to get into conflict with the referees, but in any part of the world and in all professions, there must always be consequences when one makes a mistake, but in our football that only applies to the footballers.”

At the time of writing there were also four matches to go in the first phase of the league championship, before it is divided into two groups – the teams finishing in the odd-numbered positions in the standings in one and the evens in the other – with the winners going into the two-leg final scheduled for December 9 and 13.

As things stood, Solano’s Universitario, top by one point, faced the prospect of meeting arch-rivals Alianza, title holders San Martin and another of the traditional strong Lima teams, Sporting Cristal, in the group phase, a guarantee of good revenue but a tough route to the final.

“As a fan, l prefer to meet Alianza Lima in the title decider… However, given that the economic aspect is important, a full house in the ‘clasico’ will be vital in the group stage,” Universitario chairman Gino Pinasco was quoted as saying by peru.com.

Solano’s view was that “if we want to be champions we have to beat everyone.”

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