BUENOS AIRES :- Argentina's professional soccer players are pressing ahead with their plan to strike this weekend over millions of dollars in salary arrears, prompting the Argentine FA (AFA) to threaten clubs with sanctions for delaying the resumption of the league.
Some players are owed up to five months in salaries by clubs and the debts must be settled before competition resumes in the country's five professional divisions, Argentine Players Union (FAA) boss Sergio Marchi told reporters yesterday.
"The demands are just. We're not asking for increases, but that payments be deposited in the footballers' accounts," Marchi said after a meeting with the captains of the teams in the five divisions.
"We have decided to down tools because the debts (clubs have) with the players dating back four and five months and which we've been demanding (be paid) since January 3 have not be settled.
"We had a good debate but the (strike) measure was never put in doubt and was unanimous," he added.
However, the AFA, which had rescheduled the resumption of the first division championship for today after a delay of a month, retaliated by threatening to fine and dock points from clubs.
"The Argentine Football Association reminds (clubs) that its rules envisage sanctions for those that do not present their teams on the designated days and times," an AFA statement said.
The return to action was delayed over the AFA's drawn-out negotiations with the national government for the payment of a 25-million dollar debt for match broadcasting rights.
The parties finally came to an agreement last weekend and the government said it had paid the AFA the money, but the players say they are still waiting for it to filter down to them.
There has been no league action since mid-December when the championships went into a summer recess that was scheduled to end on Feb. 3.
Only a few clubs have played competitive football this year, Atletico Tucuman in the preliminary rounds of the Copa Libertadores and a handful of teams in the Copa Sudamericana.
Clubs have been keeping fit with friendlies and players on small lower division incomes have resorted to odd jobs to make ends meet during the impasse.
Boca Juniors were top of the first division standings with 31 points, three more than San Lorenzo and Newell's Old Boys, after 14 of the 30 rounds of matches.
Boca had been scheduled to play at Banfield on Sunday while arch-rivals River Plate were set to host Union