That sound you hear is all of Peru rejoicing. After a long drawn-out drama between national team captain Paolo Guerrero and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), a Swiss court decided to accept Guerrero’s appeal Wednesday and grant him a stay of execution that annuls the 14-month suspension the CAS handed down to him.
Guerrero has not played with Peru since early October when he fittingly scored the tying goal against Colombia in World Cup qualifiers that ultimately sealed La Blanquirroja’s ticket into its first World Cup in 36 years.
Peru’s No. 9 posted the news on his Facebook Thursday morning, sharing the following words in Spanish with his fans:
“As the believer that I am, I firstly thank God in whom I have always believed and the invaluable support of my family. Of course, I should point out that this would not have been possible without the support of the Peruvian Football Federation and in particular its president Edwin Oviedo, who stayed by my side, in Switzerland, every day until we obtained this favorable result.
Equally invaluable has been the support of each and every one of my teammates in the national team. They have given me the strength necessary to overcome this difficult moment, but this doesn’t surprise me, as that is how a family behaves and that is what we are. Of course, also, my eternal gratitude to my country, to the millions of compatriots that have united with me, in thousands of different ways, with a common denominator: overwhelming affection. I invite you to remain united … As united Peruvians we can achieve anything that appears impossible.”
Guerrero’s suspension from the CAS was originally set at six months, but was later extended to 14 months following appeal, because he tested positive for having trace amounts of cocaine in his bloodstream. The 34-year-old forward maintained that it came from drinking a traditional maté de coca (or coca tea) at a Lima hotel.
International football’s governing body FIFA had previously admitted that Guerrero did not deserve the suspension as evidence showed he did not purposefully try to gain an advantage from the substance nor was he abusing it.
The Swiss tribunal, which holds jurisdiction over the CAS located in Lausanne, Switzerland, was Guerrero’s last hope to allow him to play in his first ever World Cup.
In previous weeks, Guerrero’s national team coach Ricardo Gareca had come to his defense calling the suspension “unjust” as did the captains from Peru’s three opponents in the group stage of the World Cup, who asked that his suspension be lifted.
Peru has done well in the absence of its captain and all-time leading goalscorer as it continues an impressive 13-game unbeaten streak. La Blanquirroja topped Scotland on Tuesday 2-0 in a farewell friendly in front of its fans at the National Stadium in Lima before heading off to Europe.
Guerrero is expected to get back to training with the team immediately and should be inserted into the starting lineup for what is sure to be an emotional friendly against fellow cup qualifier Saudi Arabia on Sunday.