Peru reaches new low with FIFA ban

BUENOS AIRES- Peru, one of South America's top soccer nations in the 1970s, has reached a new low after being suspended from international competition because of a squabble between the government and federation. After reaching the last eight at the 1970 and 1978 World Cups with Brazilian-style one-touch football, Peru have gone into a long, slow decline which culminated with Monday's announcement. Peru have not qualified for a World Cup since 1982 and, although they came close in 1986 and 1998, are bottom of the 10-team South American World Cup qualifying group after losing 6-0 in Uruguay, 5-1 in Ecuador and 3-0 in Bolivia. The domestic game is in a deplorable state with players often complaining that they have not been paid for months. Peruvian teams are routinely knocked out of the South American Libertadores Cup, the region's equivalent of the Champions League, at the first hurdle. Violence, on and off the pitch, adds to the gloom. Last year, a match between Sport Ancash and Universitario ended in a brawl on the field and rioting in the stands because a home player controlled the ball with his buttocks and upset opponents. Earlier this year, the derby between Alianza Lima and Universitario was postponed after two fans were killed in separate incidents in the week before the game. Another match ended in a brawl after ball boys began deflating the balls to waste time and, last week, Universitario fans invaded the pitch at the end of a game and attempted to attack their own players after they conceded a late equaliser. REALITY SHOWS Given the standard of the game, it is difficult to understand what they are getting so excited about. Peruvian football has become embroiled in a self-destructive negativity which some critics blame on the country's tabloid newspapers and television reality shows. These specialise in delving into the private lives of footballers, who frequently complain that a quiet beer has been transformed into stories of a drunken night on the town with the breaking of some team curfew thrown in as an aggravating factor. One television presenter is currently in prison after being found guilty of defaming striker Paolo Guerrero, who himself has been given a six-match international ban for being sent off and insulting the referee in the qualifier against Uruguay. Last November, the FPF banned four of its top players, strikers Claudio Pizarro, Jefferson Farfan and Andres Mendoza and defender Santiago Acasiete, from playing international football for 18 months for indiscipline. The players denied the allegations and the FPF admitted that the evidence was based largely on the evidence of another television reporter. The bans were later reduced to three months but none of the foursome has been recalled by coach Jose Del Solar. DEFEATIST ENVIRONMENT Paulo Autuori, a Brazilian who coached the team in the qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup, said at the time: "All these frustrations and defeats added together has created a defeatist environment. You're beaten before you go onto the pitch." On top of all this comes the feuding between the government's Institute of Sports (IPD) and the FPF as well as more squabbling within the FPF itself. The IPD, led by Arturo Woodman, claims the federation has failed to adapt its statutes to Peruvian law while FPF president Manuel Burga says he has to obey FIFA. While the row continues, the players and coaches fear the worst. "We're the filling in the sandwich between Burga and Woodman," said Sporting Cristal coach Juan Carlos Oblitas. "A lot of people are going to lose their jobs."