Players strike halts start of Argentine football season

Players complain of unpaid wages for four months as opening games postponed despite government payout.

Footballers in Argentina pushed ahead with a strike over unpaid wages, forcing the year’s first league games to be suspended despite a $22m government payout, officials said.

Friday evening’s fixtures, Rosario Central versus Godoy Cruz and San Lorenzo against Belgrano were suspended, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) said.

The Argentina Footballers’ Union (FAA) had warned earlier that the government payout had not resolved the dispute.

“Tomorrow [Friday], there will be no football. I maintain that the situation today is worse than yesterday,” said FAA spokesman Sergio Marchi. 

The union says some players have not been paid for four months because the state had failed to redistribute broadcasting revenues to their clubs.

The AFA has been without a permanent president since the death of Julio Grondona in July 2014.

Al Jazeera’s Daniel Schweimler, reporting from Buenos Aires, said FIFA, football’s world governing body, has threatened to suspend Argentina from international competition unless the AFA adopts its criteria for choosing a new boss.

Payout not enough

On Thursday, the government approved the payment of 350 million pesos ($22m) to the AFA, which the association will pass on to clubs.

But the FAA said that was less than half the debt owed to the clubs. It said the $22m was not expected to be paid until Tuesday.

Last week the AFA ended a contract that gave the state broadcasting rights to top matches.

The association, which is scheduled to elect a new president next month, is threatening to deduct points. 

The chaotic situation has prompted several top clubs to say they might field non-professional players to get around the strike.

The strike has also hit the football fans hard.

“Those who run football and our politicians should realise that football is the national sport in Argentina,” Ariel, a football fan, told Al Jazeera.

“Football should be available to everyone. We’ve all got the right to football.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies