Uruguayan players call off strike

MONTEVIDEO - Uruguayan players called off a strike over unpaid wages on Friday and said the championship, already suspended twice because of violence, would restart at the weekend.

The strike was called on Monday evening and forced the postponement of a round of midweek games.

"For the benefit of everyone, football has managed to solve this problem," said Enrique Saravia, president of the Uruguayan Footballers Union, in a radio interview.

"The important thing is that there will be football tomorrow (Saturday)."

Nacional and Penarol, the country's biggest clubs, were among the teams who owed money to former players, the union said.

Uruguayan media said the strike was called off after both clubs signed agreements to pay off the debts.

Uruguay was once a major power in international soccer, staging and winning the inaugural World Cup in 1930.

The national team won another World Cup in 1950 and the Olympic soccer tournament in 1924 and 1928.

Uruguayan clubs suffer from chronic financial problems and the 30 professional teams, which are divided into two divisions, struggle to survive on meagre incomes.

The country of just 3.3 million people has suffered from a mass exodus of its top players in the last two decades.

Many first division matches are played in front of only a couple of thousand fans in stadiums that resemble European non-league grounds.

In 2005, modest Rocha reached the final of the championship despite sharing their training ground with a herd of cattle.

Crowd violence has added to the troubles.

In November, the championship was suspended for two weeks after fans of Danubio and Nacional fought on the pitch after a match.

The competition was halted again in December because of security fears over a Danubio-Penarol game. The entire round of matches was called off and played after the mid-season break in early February.

Villa Espanola were forced to pull out of the championship last month because they owed money to former players.