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Chile cancel Nov. 19 friendly vs. Peru due to protests

The two teams last played each other in the Copa America semifinals with Peru winning, 3-0.

The Chilean national team players opted on Wednesday against playing a friendly versus Peru on Nov. 19 due to the demonstrations over social inequality in Chile.

The Chile federation made the official cancellation announcement on Wednesday, adding that Gary Medel, Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz, Claudio Bravo and others were cleared to return to their respective European clubs.

"The players called up for the Chilean national team have decided not to play in the friendly against Peru, scheduled for next Tuesday, Nov. 19, in Lima," the short statement read. "The decision was taken by the squad after a meeting held this morning."

The statement did not say why the players decided to pull out of the match but the announcement follows widely-reported comments from midfielder Charles Aranguiz that the game should not be played against the backdrop of unrest.

Protests that began last month over a rise in metro fares have amplified and spread to become the biggest wave of anti-government demonstrations seen in Chile since it returned to democracy in 1990. The unrest has left at least 23 people dead and 2,000 civilians hospitalised. There have been more than 1,000 complaints of rights abuses, according to human rights groups and prosecutors. 

The game had originally been scheduled for Chile but was moved to Lima to avoid the protests sweeping across Chile and the national strike that brought much of Chile to a standstill on Tuesday. 

Peru federation sporting director, Juan Carlos Oblitas, said he was shocked to learn of the last-minute decision, especially since the Chile team had recently announced plans to fly to Lima two days earlier and train in his country's capital city.

"It is inconceivable and we do not understand it at all," Oblitas said after learning of the decision on Wednesday. "Logically we are going to be upset. This completely messes us up. This messes up our sporting plans and has legal repercussions."

Bologna midfielder Gary Medel told his Twitter followers that the team needed to stand behind the country.

"As a team we have made the decision to not play a friendly with Peru, mindful of the social moment we are living in as a country," Medel wrote on his social media. "We are football players, but before that we are people and citizens. We know that we represent the entire country and today Chile has other priorities that are much more important than Tuesday's match.

"The game for equality is much more important as is the game to effect changes in other matters that will create a more equal and just country for all Chileans." 

Chile had also been scheduled to play Bolivia at home on Nov. 15 but that game was cancelled last week. The domestic league programme has also been halted because of the protests and officials said they do not know when the competition will be completed.

Chile is one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America, but it is also one of the most unequal, with a swath of basic services privatised.

The two teams last played each other in the Copa America semifinals on July 3, 2019 with Peru winning, 3-0.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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