Suspension puts Peru’s 2022 WC qualification at risk, says official

Peru will jeopardise its chances of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar if the country’s top-flight league cannot restart quickly, a senior official has warned.

Prime Minister Walter Martos ordered the suspension of the Liga 1 on Saturday, pending new guarantees from the Peruvian Football Federation (FPF) that it will comply with sanitary protocols, reports Xinhua news agency.

The announcement came just hours after Friday’s goal-less draw between Cantalao and Universitario – which marked football’s restart in Peru following a five-month coronavirus hiatus – was marred by fan riots outside Lima’s National Stadium.

“We can forget about (World Cup) qualification,” FPF sporting director Juan Carlos Oblitas told Peru’s RPP Noticias radio station.

“The image that we have given to the world is terrible. Everything has to start with assuming responsibilities,” he said, adding that the government, league officials, clubs and supporter groups needed to take joint steps to prevent a repeat of Friday’s scenes.

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) World Cup qualifying tournament, which had been due to begin in late March before the pandemic hit, is now on track to start in October.

Oblitas said that the national teams whose domestic leagues returned fastest from the coronavirus shutdown – such as Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – would hold a significant advantage in the opening qualifiers.

“No one has to shirk responsibilities. We have been dealing with this issue for three or four months,” the director said. “I saw first-hand the fantastic work that the federation and Liga 1 did. The protocols were complied with perfectly, but unfortunately a group of madmen ruined it,” he added.

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