Soccer

Deal prevents player strike in Brazilian league

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SAO PAULO (AP)

Brazilian players on Friday decided not to go on strike this weekend after a club reached a deal with its squad over outstanding payments.

In the latest attempt to improve conditions for footballers in Brazil, players had threatened not to play the second-to-last round of the Brazilian league in solidarity with colleagues at last-place Nautico, who said they were not being paid.

The players leading the ''Common Sense FC'' movement had said no one would enter the field in the 10 league matches this weekend unless Nautico paid what it allegedly owes its players.

Club officials, who deny they owe salaries but admit some image rights payments are behind schedule, announced via Twitter that they reached a deal with players to pay them by Dec. 9.

Cruzeiro has already secured the title, but the last two rounds are decisive for teams trying to avoid relegation and secure a place in next year's Copa Libertadores. Nautico has already been relegated.

The unprecedented players' movement has been growing in recent weeks with protests at the start of matches, mainly aimed at forcing the national federation to changing the playing schedule and reducing the number of games played each year.

In recent weeks, players first stood on the pitch with their arms crossed at the start of games. Last week, they sat on the ground and crossed their arms before the initial whistle.

But an all-out strike would take the protests to a whole new level.

The movement also seeks adequate vacation time, longer preseasons, more influence in major decisions and for clubs to face harsher punishments if they fail to pay players on time. Delays in salary payments are common in Brazilian football, even in some of the country's most traditional and popular clubs.

''There will not be a strike during this round,'' the Common Sense movement said in a statement. ''But we will continue our demonstrations until we reach our goals.''

Nautico players on Thursday called media outlets to say they were not getting paid on time and would not practice or play until the issue was resolved. A few hours later, the Common Sense movement issued a statement showing its support.

''(Nautico) players want what is fair,'' it said. ''If there is any retaliation to the players and if the payment is not made, the first division of the Brazilian league will be IMMEDIATELY stopped.''

Nautico players also complained that the team was refusing to pay players who were injured, but team president Paulo Wanderley denied any wrongdoing and said he had already told players that what is owed in image rights would be paid early in December.

''The delay in the payment of image rights of eight players does not justify the players' lack of professionalism and passion on and off the field,'' Nautico said in a statement Friday.

Wanderley said he was prepared to use youth squads to play the team's match against Vasco da Gama on Saturday if the players refused to play.

''They shouldn't be complaining, they should be playing,'' Wanderley said.

Nautico, one of the most traditional clubs in northeastern Brazil, has lost 11 matches in a row entering the last two rounds.

''If it's to improve our football, then I think it's time to take a strong stance,'' Nautico coach Marcelo Martelotte told ESPN Brazil. ''But it has to be clear that what is happening now is not exclusive to Nautico. It happens everywhere. We know there are teams from the first division that are having even more financial difficulties than Nautico.''

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