Paraguay clubs agree to start championship

February 8, 2007

ASUNCION, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Paraguay's top-flight soccer clubs, embroiled in a row over elections for their federation president, agreed on Wednesday to start the national championship.

The Paraguayan championship had been due to kick off last Friday.

'An agreement has been reached for the championship to start on February 16,' said Sports Minister Federico Frutos after mediating at a meeting of the 12 first division clubs.

The start of the championship had been delayed last week at 24 hours' notice.

Frutos added that meetings would continue to decide on a date for the elections, which had been the sticking point.

The row began when APF president Oscar Harrison fell out with his former deputy Juan Angel Napout, who is hoping to take charge of the association.

Six of the 12 first division clubs, including the two most popular Olimpia and Cerro Porteno, have backed Napout. They had been refusing to play until an election was held.

Champions Libertad, Guarani, Sol de America and 3 de Febrero have also said they back Napout, who wants to appoint Argentina's Gerardo Martino as national team coach.

Paraguay have qualified for the last three World Cups and enjoyed competitive wins over both Brazil and Argentina in the last few year.

Domestic soccer survives on a shoestring budget, however, and many first division games are played in front of less than 500 fans.