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Argentine strike will not affect World Cup qualifier

© Reuters Limited 2001

BUENOS AIRES, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Argentina's national team will not be affected by a players' strike which has delayed the start of the league championship, the leader of the players' union has promised.

"I think it would be madness to affect the national team and I want it to be made clear that Argentina will play the next qualifying game without any problems," said Sergio Marchi, president of the Argentine Players' Union (FAA).

Argentina, who lead the South American qualifying group by six points from Paraguay and are almost certain of their berth in the finals in Japan and South Korea next year, face Ecuador in Quito on August 15. Ecuador are third in the group.

Most of the national team play their club football in Europe and Marchi said the players had supported their home-based colleagues.

"We've received good backing from the players who are abroad and this is very important for us, it means we are on the right path," he said in a radio interview broadcast late Thursday.

The players went on strike for the second time this year on Tuesday in protest at unpaid wages and bonuses.

Barring a miraculous last-minute solution, there will almost certainly be no football this weekend when the Apertura championship - the first of the two league competitions in the season - was due to start.

Players have accused the clubs of breaking the agreement which ended the first stoppage in May.

The clubs agreed to pay off the debts, which the players say total $38 million, in two instalments in June and July and the Argentine Football Association (AFA) had promised to cough up if the clubs could not pay. The deal was backed by the Ministry of Labour.

But according to the players, many clubs have not even paid off the first instalment.

The AFA has been trying to arrange loans to pay off the debts but both directors and players say the strike is set to drag on for a long time.

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