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Last Updated: Monday, 13 September, 2004, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Peru suffer in silence
By Tim Vickery

Peru coach Paulo Autori
Autori's quiet plan to galvanise the team has backfired
It is not only England whose World Cup qualification campaign is being marred by strained relations with the press.

In Peru the problem is much more serious.

Coach Paulo Autori refuses to talk to the Peruvian media - a stance he intends to maintain while he holds his current job, which may not be for very long.

The boycott began two months ago during the Copa America, which Peru hosted.

The country, unusually for South America, has a very strong tabloid press, which delights in stories of drinking escapades by footballers.

Some of these newspapers claimed that two senior players had broken out of the team hotel for a drinking session.

The players concerned angrily denied the allegations.

In protest, Autori declared his law of silence. His aim was obvious.

By showing solidarity with his players, Peru's coach was hoping to unite the dressing room and channel the anger into an 'us against the world' mentality.

But Autori overlooked one of the basic rules of football. The crowd are not spectators, they are participants.

They create the atmosphere that inspires the players, intimidates the opposition and makes performing at home an advantage.

By not talking to the press Autori is in effect locking the Peruvian people out of the dressing room.

This is foolishly heavy handed for two reasons.

Firstly, because Autori is not from Peru. He is Brazilian and his silence comes across as an insensitive snub, especially as he is happy to talk to the foreign media.

Secondly, because he has united the press against him, when a more intelligent strategy would clearly be to try to separate the sensationalists from the rest.

Autori's vow of silence looks like professional suicide
The result is that Autori has created such a negative environment for himself that his team no longer take advantage from playing at home.

Peru have played 5 of their 8 World Cup qualifiers at home.

Their only victory in Lima came a year ago in the first of those games.

Since then they have accumulated two draws and two defeats - a total of 10 dropped points in front of their own fans, which will probably make the difference between going to the World Cup and staying at home.

In the last game against Argentina the crowd turned up at the Monumental Stadium more inclined to jeer Autori than to cheer for his team.

In a way, then, they got what they wanted. Peru lost 3-1, and the closing stages were played out amid piercing calls for the coach's resignation.

For the moment, though, it seems that Autori will stay.

A long meeting last week decided that there should be no change of coach, at least before next month's two rounds of qualifiers.

Autori has probably been saved by the fact that Peru are away in both matches, first to Bolivia and then to Paraguay.

It is thought that the Peruvian FA will try to persuade their coach to rethink his media policy.

It might mean that Autori has to make a humiliating climbdown.

But surely that is preferable to the vow of silence that looks like professional suicide.

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