Argentine footballers strike over pay, reach agreement

Players from Rosario Central, one of the teams that was on strike.

Professional football players became one more sector to hold strikes in Argentina amid a struggling economy and harsh austerity measures imposed by right-wing President Mauricio Macri when matches were cancelled early this month over ongoing pay disputes.

Several clubs have been unable to pay players amid a major financial crisis and a corruption scandal plaguing the country’s beloved sport. 

Reuters said on March 9 that AFA and players' union head Sergio Marchi announced an end to the strike at a joint news conference at the Labour ministry. "We've reached a balanced agreement in which we've managed to resolve the conflict so that (playing) activity can start," Marchi said.

Despite the South American country having some of the world’s most passionate fans, prestigious clubs and producing giants of the sport like Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, the strikes had left players and fans reeling.

On March 4, a match in Lionel Messi’s hometown of Rosario was cancelled between Rosario Central and Godoy Cruz. In Buenos Aires, a match between cross-city rivals San Lorenzo and Belgrano was also cancelled. The strikes are affecting more than 200 of the country’s clubs.

After a Nestor Kirchner-era broadcasting contract between clubs was terminated by Macri’s government, the government then paid out around US$22 million in compensation for the dead contract in a bid to stop a strike — with little result.

Players say club heads have been spending so much money that they cannot even pay players what they are owed. The union representing the players said the strike would continue until players were paid.

The country’s favourite sport has been embroiled in controversy stemming back to 2014, with the death of Julio Grondona, then president of the Argentine Football Association, AFA, and vice president of football’s governing body FIFA. Grondona is suspected of being at the heart of a worldwide bribery scandal revealed in 2015.

It is not only footballers who are angry about the economic problems and austerity. In recent days, Macri has faced a barrage of protests by unions, farmers and feminist groups.

[Based on a TeleSUR English article.]

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