When Paolo Guerrero, the team’s captain, and a top goal scorer, was suspended from playing with Peru, many saw the move as unjust. Thousands of Peruvians marched for his reinstatement.
And to the relief of millions of Peruvians, it was suspended.
CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports.
After a 36-year absence from the tournament, the Andean nation of 31 million was ecstatic to qualify last year. But that elation turned to bitterness and outrage after Guerrero was slapped with a six-month doping ban. That was made worse when it was later elevated to 14 months.
“I’ve been put through this injustice for six months only for the Court of Abritration in Sport to ratify a 14 months suspension This is really tough, not just for me but for my family,” said the team captain. Guerrero tested positive for traces of a cocaine derivative last year.
He said that he drank an herbal tea at his team hotel, which may have had traces of coca, a common infusion in Andean countries.
Peru’s coach Ricardo Gareca said the ban was baseless, but the show must go on. “We are all moved. We are all in solidarity with Paolo. We know he is innocent. We know he’s a sensational player, a professional idol who deserves all of this but our story continues. We must represent the country,” explained Gareca.
The doping ban, which was extended when Guerrero appealed, had raised questions about how such restrictions are being dealt to athletes. The World Anti-Doping Agency accepted that the player had not attempted to enhance his performance and had not ingested the substance intentionally.
Peruvians breathed a sigh of relief when the Supreme Court of Switzerland temporarily suspended the ruling. Guerrero can play in the World Cup after all but he may have to serve the rest of the ban after the tournament.
Even the country’s president expressed his delight at the news. “The team lacked somebody, the leader of the team, the captain, and the captain today awoke with the happy news that he will rejoin and complete the team,” declared Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra.
For Peru fans, their team’s participation in the World Cup in Russia is nothing short of historic.