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Veracruz players give up two goals while protesting unpaid wages

Veracruz players protested unpaid wages by refusing to play for the first 4 minutes and 20 seconds of Friday's 3-1 Liga MX home loss against Tigres, giving up two early goals in the process.

Tigres' players joined the protest for the first 60 seconds, but then began to play after goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado kicked the ball away and ceded possession.

Tigres' Eduardo Vargas kicked the ball into an empty net at 1:39, and Andre-Pierre Gignac added the second past motionless goalkeeper Jurado at 3:55. It was Gignac's 100th goal since moving to Liga MX in 2015.

Veracruz players began to move and play just after the second goal, but Tigres increased their lead through a second Vargas goal in the eighth minute to make it 3-0. Colin Kazim-Richards added a late goal for the home side to reach the final score line.

Veracruz owner Fidel Kuri told ESPN Mexico's Futbol Picante after the game that he was "embarrassed for the fans" and suggested that Tigres players were in their rights to look to score goals during the protest.

"The players wanted to send a message that wasn't discussed, but they are in their right," said Kuri. "We were once again the joke of the nation, or the world with this topic."

Veracruz forward Angel Reyna told TV Azteca that Tigres players knew that his side would protest for the first three minutes of the game, but proceeded to play anyway.

The Mexican footballers' association (AMFproMX) had confirmed earlier in the week that Veracruz's players would be boycotting the game due to wages not being paid to players, with some of the debts stretching back six months.

But the match against Tigres in Estadio Luis "Pirata" Fuente went ahead after the FMF and Liga MX suggested the club could be relegated if players hadn't taken the field.

The footballers' association had earlier used the hashtag "today for me, tomorrow for you" in showing solidarity with the Veracruz players, who sarcastically applauded Tigres' players as they exited the field.

Tigres midfielder and captain Guido Pizarro said in a news conference after the game that the Tigres players knew that a joint photo would be taken beforehand and that the players would begin to compete after an agreed one-minute protest.

But then on arrival at the stadium Pizarro said that Veracruz's captain asked for "five minutes or three minutes" to protest Kuri, which the Tigres players didn't agree to, according to Pizarro.

The Tigres captain said that other Veracruz players weren't aware that the protest would be for longer than one minute and that the away side was waiting for the opposition to make a public declaration ahead of the game.

"For them to make us responsible for a protest that they were making to there president I think is an error," said Pizarro. "We came here, respected what they put in the group (about a one-minute protest) ... and went through with it."

Veracruz's Carlos Salcido made a statement explaining that some players hadn't been paid in "five or six" months, that the team lacked basic equipment like ice bags for injuries, that the women's team has no private changing rooms and that the youth teams aren't given proper nutrition, among a list of other complaints.

Former Mexico international Salcido also contradicted Pizarro's statement about the protest at the start of the game.

"Tigres knew perfectly well that we would stop for three minutes," he said. "It's sad. We are all professional. We're all in football and you all saw what happened."

In a news conference earlier Friday, FMF president Yon de Luisa announced that an emergency fund of around $1 million would be made available to guarantee that players who made official complaints that could be verified would be paid part of the debt owed.

De Luisa confirmed that only two players from Veracruz had made official complaints so far, with Liga MX president Enrique Bonilla saying Wednesday that some players had only "verbal agreements" with the club.

Players' association president Alvaro Ortiz spoke at a separate news conference shortly afterward Friday and said that the emergency fund represented "a light" and that stopping the league in protest wasn't the solution.

Veracruz has had a number of issues on and off the field in recent years, and paid a fine to be able to stay in Liga MX at the end of last season, after it had been relegated, with Mexico's first division set to increase to 20 teams.

The result sees Veracruz extend its record winless streak to 40 games in Liga MX, with the team's most recent victory coming in August 2018. The club is currently rooted to the bottom of the Liga MX table, having picked up four points and scored just seven goals in 12 games so far this season.

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