Copa América Champs Pledge to Join Chile’s Imminent Soccer Strike

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Argentine players aren’t the only ones upset and angry with the suits in charge of their footballing careers. In Chile, players are threatening to strike on opening weekend (July 22-24) in protest of the Asociación Nacional de Fútbol Profesional (ANFP), the country’s soccer association, if it does not comply with the wishes of the Sindicato Interempresa de Futbolistas Profesionales de Chile (Sifup) players union.

According to Andrew Warshaw at Inside World Football, the Sifup has threatened to strike in response to the ANFP’s one-eighty concerning a new calendar system agreed upon by the ANFP, Sifup, and others. The current football calendar runs from July to April, but the organizations involved had agreed to switch to a new calendar system that begins in February and ends in December. The February/December calendar aligns with that of other labor groups in the country.

Another major issue cited by Sifup is the change in the promotion and relegation system between the Primera División (first division), Primera B (second division), and Segunda División Profesional (third division). The new changes would only allow one team in the first division to be relegated to the second, while pro/rel between the second and third divisions would be abolished. Not only that, the ANFP has also decided to delay the start of the season for third division teams.

There are six players from Chile’s national team (who are Copa Centenario champions) playing in their country.

These changes from the ANFP will leave 420 footballers in Chile without a contract, the majority of them in the third division. “If there’s no chance of going up, nobody will make an effort to recruit anyone else, and if no one is in danger of going down, the same will happen,” said Sifup president Carlos Soto.

“Competition is the essence of tournament play,” he added in another interview. “One simply can’t play just to play, without the incentive of winning a title, of winning promotion to a superior league, or being punished by relegation.”

Sifup wants to return to the negotiating table on Monday, July 18 with ANFP to discuss a number of other matters such as the regulation of payments and salaries in the three divisions, the scheduling of night matches during the summer (November – March), and other topics.

Many club owners and directors have struck back at Sifup by promising to continue their plans on match day 1.

“We have all agreed to compete with our youth teams,” said Cesare Rossi of Deportes Iquique. “There is no possibility of modifying our tournament system.”

ANFP president Arturo Salah has laid the responsibility of these decisions not on the ANFP but on the Consejo de Presidentes.

“The strike is illegal,” he said. “The union can not meddle in the affairs of the administration [and] Sifup was late to the table to propose any changes.”