November 14 – Chilean football has been plunged into further crisis after national team players took the rare collective step of pulling out of next week’s friendly with rivals Peru as their country continues to suffer from weeks of protests and violent unrest.
“The players called up for the Chilean national team have decided not to play in the friendly against Peru, scheduled for next Tuesday, November 19, in Lima,” Chile’s football association said in short statement .
The FA said the players had been released by coach Reinaldo Rueda and were free to return to their clubs.
The statement did not give a specific reason but the move is seen as support for the nationwide protest movement against social inequality and high living costs, and followed comments from midfielder Charles Aranguiz that the game should not be played against the current backdrop.
“There’s a difficult atmosphere and in my opinion we shouldn’t play out of respect for what’s happening in the country,” said the 74-capped Aranguiz.
Protests that began last month over a rise in metro fares have spread to become the biggest wave of anti-government demonstrations seen in Chile since it returned to democracy in 1990.
The campaign has left at least 23 people dead and 2,000 civilians hospitalised, with more than 1,000 complaints of rights abuses, according to human rights groups and prosecutors.
Chile had also been scheduled to play Bolivia at home tomorrow but that game was already cancelled last week. The domestic league programme has also been halted for almost a month, with no matches played in either of the top two divisions.
“We’re footballers but above all we’re people and citizens,” Chile’s captain Gary Medel, who plays for Bologna, wrote on Twitter. “Right now Chile has much more important priorities than next Tuesday’s match.”
The decision was taken following “a team meeting” at Chile’s training centre on the outskirts of the capital Santiago.
“There’s a more important match, which is that of equality so that all Chileans live in a fairer country,” said Medel. “We support the demonstrations, but without violence and without injuries, as much on the side of the protesters as the armed forces.”
The November internationals were Rueda’s last opportunity to test his players before 2022 World Cup qualifying begins in March.
The final of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League, between Argentine holders River Plate and Brazilians Flamengo on November 23 has already been moved from Santiago to Lima due to the Chile protests.
Rueda has cast doubt over his future as a result of what’s going on.
“I came [to the job] to work in football and if this continues, … if there is no football, I have to go. It is unusual, it is not normal,” he said. “The question is, when is the situation going to be normalised.”
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