Veracruz Players Protest Unpaid Wages by Standing Still During Liga MX Match

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 19, 2019

Players of Tigres(L)  argue with players of Veracruz at the end of their Mexican Apertura tournament football match at Luis Pirata Fuente stadium in Veracruz, Veracruz state, Mexico on October 18, 2019. - Veracruz players did not engage on the game for the  first five minutes of the match to protest not receiving their salaries and received two goals. (Photo by VICTOR CRUZ / AFP) (Photo by VICTOR CRUZ/AFP via Getty Images)
VICTOR CRUZ/Getty Images

Veracruz went 2-0 down in less than four minutes of their home match against Tigres in Liga MX on Friday because the players refused to play to protest against unpaid wages.

Players from both teams initially took part in the demonstration, according to ESPN FC's Tom Marshall. However, while those representing Tigres only stood still for a minute, Veracruz's players maintained their act of defiance for a further three minutes and 20 seconds.

In that time, Eduardo Vargas and Andre-Pierre Gignac put the away side 2-0 up. Veracruz goalkeeper Sebastian Jurado Roca made no attempt to save either effort, having initially given the ball away as he continued to protest.

Vargas went on to complete a brace after eight minutes, while former Fenerbahce and Celtic and forward Colin Kazim-Richards got one back in vain for Veracruz in the 90th minute.

There appeared to be uncertainty among the visitors about exactly how to play things, even as the goals were going in:

Cesar Hernandez @cesarhfutbol

Veracruz players are not moving. Gignac pressures the ball, Tigres score and...Veracruz refuse to move. #LigaMXeng https://t.co/2KWMT6e4pl

Cesar Hernandez @cesarhfutbol

Tigres seem confused and they're not sure whether they should play or not. Gignac scores the second, but then seems to be perplexed as he talks to Veracruz afterwards as they refuse to move. Bizarre scenes here. Veracruz clearly protesting. #LigaMXeng

The bizarre turn of events stemmed from a disagreement over the length of the protest, per the report. Tigres skipper Guido Pizarro explained how a show of solidarity lasting 60 seconds had originally been agreed, only for Veracruz to then ask for a longer action, something Tigres would not consent to.

Pizarro said the request to extend the protest came from the Veracruz captain, but he doubted whether other members of the home team knew about it, per Marshall: "For them to make us responsible for a protest that they were making to their president I think is an error. We came here, respected what they put in the group [about a one-minute protest]...and went through with it."

However, Veracruz duo Angel Reyna and Carlos Salcido both refuted Pizarro's claim, with Salcido saying: "Tigres knew perfectly well that we would stop for three minutes. It's sad. We are all professional. We're all in football and you all saw what happened."

Fidel Kuri, the Veracruz owner, was damning in his assessment of events when he spoke to ESPN Mexico's Futbol Picante (h/t Marshall): "The players wanted to send a message that wasn't discussed, but they are in their right. We were once again the joke of the nation, or the world with this topic."

Tom Marshall @mexicoworldcup

Veracruz owner Fidel Kuri on @futpicante: The opposition Tigres came to do their job and our players were in the wrong. #ligamxeng

Despite Kuri's words, the Veracruz players' complaint dates back six months. The Mexican footballers' association (AMFproMX) released a statement on Thursday, saying some players threatened to boycott the game against Tigres (h/t Marshall).

AMFproMX President Alvaro Ortiz described situations involving players being forced to sleep at the Estadio Luis "Pirata" Fuente and failing to make payments for their children's education.

Meanwhile, Marshall also noted how FMF President Yon de Luisa said that there had only been two complaints from the playing staff before Friday's game, although a fund of "around $1 million" would be used to help repay debts, provided any official complaints "could be verified."

Before the game, several players, including Jurado and Reyna, posted messages of solidarity on Twitter:

Sebastian Jurado Roca @sebastianj_97

#Hoypormimañanaporti https://t.co/K1RhV1iJZ2

Angel Reyna @AngelReynaFut


Subsequent to the events on the pitch, Veracruz players, led by Salcido, have been shedding more light on the state of affairs at the club, which is rooted to the foot of the table in Mexico's top flight:

Tom Marshall @mexicoworldcup

Statement from Veracruz's players being explained by Carlos Salcido: - Some first team players owed 5-6 months. - Youth teams without proper nutrition, hydration, traveling over 10 hours for games - Women's team don't have private changing room, medical staff #ligamxeng

Amelia Lopez @AztecaAmeliaaa

The women’s side doesn’t have a medical staff, nutritionist, or “space to change” or water to shower with, or hydrate. This whole thing is a disaster, obviously extends beyond #LigaMXFemEng. Incredibly ridiculous and good on these players to take such a strong stance. https://t.co/oKhUmJLhET

Despite the contrasting viewpoints regarding the protest, the actions of Salcido and his team-mates have given the situation widespread attention. A broader focus on how things play out may even lead to a satisfying resolution.