A number of soccer matches have been cancelled this weekend in Argentina over ongoing pay disputes involving several clubs which have not been able to pay players amid a major financial crisis and a corruption scandal plaguing the country's beloved sport.
Despite having some of the world’s most passionate fans, prestigious clubs and producing giants of the sport like Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, the strikes have left players and fans reeling.
On Friday, a match in Lionel Messi’s hometown of Rosario was canceled between Rosario Central and Godoy Cruz. In Buenos Aires, a match between cross-city rivals San Lorenzo and Belgrano was also canceled. The strikes are affecting over 200 of the country’s clubs.
After a Kirchner-era broadcasting contract between clubs was terminated by Mauricio Macri’s government, the government then paid out around US$22 million in compensation for the dead contract in a bid to stop a strike, but with little result.
Players say that the heads of clubs have been spending so much money that they can't even pay players what they are owed in their salaries. The union representing the players has said that the strike will continue until players receive their payments.
The country's favorite sport has been embroiled in controversy stemming back to 2014, with the death of Julio Grondona, then president of the Argentine Football Association, AFA, and vice president of soccer's governing body FIFA. Grondona is suspected of being at the heart of a worldwide kick-back and bribery scandal that was revealed in 2015.
It's not only professional soccer players who are angry about economic troubles and corruption in Argentina. This week – amid a struggling economy, austerity measures, unemployment and job cuts – Macri has faced a barrage of discontent, through marches by labor organizations, farmers and feminist organizations.