Have Peru shot themselves in the foot over Guerrero and co?
Paolo Guerrero scored twice for Hamburg SV on Sunday in their 2-1 win over Schalke 04, whose consolation was scored by his compatriot Jefferson Farfan.
But neither of them will be on the field when Peru host arch-rivals Chile in a South American World Cup qualifier, nor will Claudio Pizarro who has scored 12 goals for Werder Bremen this season.
Once considered the third team in South America behind Brazil and Argentina, Peru lie bottom of the 10-team South American World Cup qualifying group with a paltry five points from 10 games. Their results have included a 5-1 defeat in Ecuador and 6-0 thrashing in Uruguay. They have scored five goals in 10 games yet feel they can afford the luxury of doing without their top players.
Farfan and Pizarro were both suspended for 18 months by the Peruvian federation for alleged acts of indiscipline at the team hotel following a World Cup qualifier against Brazil in November 2007.
The bans were later cut to three months and have long since ended by coach Jose del Solar has refused to recall the pair, nor defender Santiago Acasiete who was banned alongside them.
Guerrero, meanwhile, is serving a six-match suspended for his furious reaction to being sent off during the Uruguay match.
Pizarro, in particular, has repeatedly protested his innocence and accused the Peruvian federation of using the alleged incident — based on the evidence given by a television reporter — as a smokescreen to hide its own problems,
“He (Del Solar) knew perfectly well that I was not involved and told me personally, but never said anything in public,” Pizarro said in a newspaper interview with El Comercio last month. “That hurt me. He knows he let me down.”
Peru’s problems go far beyond alleged indiscipline by the players. Last year, the in-fighting amongst Peruvian officials reached such a point that FIFA briefly suspended the country.
The players also complain about the country’s notorious tabloid newspapers and reality television shows, often accusing them of turning a quiet beer with friends into stories of all-night debauchery.
Last year, television presenter Magaly Medina spent two months in prison after being found guilty of defaming Guerrero.
In the meantime, Peru flounder at the bottom of the table and Del Solar’s refusal to recall Pizarro and Farfan seems to be a well-aimed shot in his own foot.
PHOTO: Schalke 04′s Mladen Krstajic challenges Guerrero for a header in Gelsenkirchen, March 22, 2009. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender