Federation infighting deepens existing football trouble in Peru
A much lamented Brazilian comedian called Chacrinha had a long list of catchphrases -- one of which was "I come to confuse, and not to explain."
The genius of the phrase lies in the fact that it can be such a useful guide to a traditional aspect of South American societies, where the common good is a nebulous concept and intelligence and erudition can be used to muddy the waters instead of providing clarity.
It applies perfectly to the recent goings-on in Peruvian football. The Peru national team, it is worth recalling, have not made it to a World Cup since 1982 -- and have not come close since 1998. It is years since Peru's clubs have been serious contenders in the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League, and even the biggest clubs are deep in financial trouble.
Clearly, this should be a moment for reflection, and for all concerned to pull together in a bid to find solutions. Instead, Peruvian football wallows ever deeper in farce -- as the events at the end of last week make abundantly clear. The election to choose the new president of the FPF, the local football association, should have taken place Thursday -- but ended up being postponed for 30 days.
The position is currently held by Manuel Burga, who has headed the organisation for three four-year terms. He was up for re-election again -- but the statutes of the FPF limit the president to one re-election. On this basis, the FPF's electoral committee of lawyers ruled him ineligible.
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Burga's counter-argument is that this is a relatively recent clause that did not come into force until he was in his third term, and thus cannot be applied retrospectively.
The president has next to no support among the fans. In a recent poll, 93 percent wanted him out. Some see him as a symbol of everything that is wrong with Peruvian football -- perhaps naively, because the problems are far deeper than any one man. But his lack of popular appeal is hardly relevant, because he has plenty of support where it matters.
The assembly that votes in the election is made up of the following components: one vote for each of the 25 regional federations, one vote for each of the 16 first-division clubs, one vote for the second division.
The power, then, is with the bureaucrats of the regional federations -- especially as some of the first-division clubs are currently without a vote since their finances are so dire that they are in administration. These include the country's big two, Alianza Lima and Universitario.
It is open to question exactly how democratic this apparent football democracy is. What would not seem open to question is the support that Burga has cultivated in the regional federations. On Thursday, the assembly voted to dismiss the electoral committee that had ruled Burga ineligible and postponed the election for a month.
There is mounting pressure on the government to intervene in the FPF, which could leave Peruvian football open to a suspension from FIFA. Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking, and the time needed to prepare properly for the next set of World Cup qualifiers becomes tighter and tighter.
Tim Vickery covers South American football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Vickery.