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Carlos González Puche, executive director of the Colombian Association of Professional Football Players (Acolfutpro), described as shameful what happened on Saturday, when Deportes Quindío turned up with an amateur youth team to play Millonarios after the professional team refused to travel to Bogotá because their wages had not been paid. González Puche was interviewed by daily El Tiempo.

 

What is the position of Acolfutpro?
'The position of the Association, ever since it was created, has been that players' rights must be complied with. We have been denouncing irregularities and now the players are starting to take the appropriate decisions to defend those rights, and this is an appeal because they are protected by both the law and regulations. They are tired of being let down. This will be repeated, because there are many clubs that persist in failing to comply.'

 

What other irregularities occur?
'For example they declare 80 per cent of their employees as being on minimum wages and don't justify the rest in order to defraud and evade real payment for performance, parafiscal charges and pensions. They are attacking our right of assembly, they don't allow us to inform our members, and managers talk about reducing costs when the clubs are getting the money. Where are those resources going to end up if they don't pay their employees' wages? They do have money.’

 

The outlook is tending to get worse, then?

'They didn't comply before Acolfutpro existed either, and teams changed names like changing shirts. It can't be considered professional football if they don't respect the footballing profession. It's a disgrace for them - Deportes Quindio - to present an amateur team in a professional competition, and managers only want to feather their nests, that's their only objective, not to respect some minimal rights.'

 

Would you call a strike?
'Decisions are made by the players. Those of Quindío are being advised, they have a clear picture of how they can act, and the same situation is coming for Once Caldas. In Colombia even the champions of the highest division cannot collect their wages, this is unacceptable.'

 

‘Where are the sanctions for those clubs who don't comply? Instead of punishing the clubs that don't comply, the doors are opened to informality. If they had punished those who didn't comply, Colombian football would have taken a different course long ago, since its own managers are those responsible, and the Government too for allowing them not to comply. Strikes aren't good, but decisions made by players will decide whether or not the business will be shut down.'

 

How many members does the Association currently have?
We have between 1,000 and 1,100 members.

 

 

 

New Law on Football
The National Government gave a tough warning to Colombian professional football clubs on Monday.

 

On the subject of the new Law on Football that's in the course of being conciliated and approved by the President of the Republic, the Executive noted that a case like that of Deportes Quindío would lead to the liquidation of the club.

 

The Interior and Justice Minister, Germán Vargas Lleras, said that the new law is mainly going to guarantee worker's rights, which is part of the current problems of football. 'The Law provides that, if the labour rights of players are not respected, there may be grounds for the liquidation of the team', he explained.

 

He said those rights ‘will be watched over and will be complied with’ on pain of a fine on the clubs. The Minister also emphasized that this norm promotes the same objective, because all of the clubs' operations will be more closely monitored.

 

Currently, payments of wages to players for several teams - Deportes Quindío, Deportivo Pereira and Once Caldas, in particular - are in a mess.

 

For another thing, the Government has confirmed sanctions on nine Colombian professional football teams for failing to pay players their wages.The Deputy Minister of Labour Affairs, Ricardo Andrés Echeverry, confirmed that Deportivo Cali, América de Cali, Cúcuta Deportivo and Atlético Bucaramanga are among the teams that have been fined between 1,545,000 and 10,300,000 pesos.