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Venezuela in diplomatic row with Peru after controversial football match

Peru's forward Gianluca Lapadula (L) fights for the ball with Venezuela's defender Yordan Osorio during the 2026 FIFA World Cup South American qualification football match between Peru and Venezuela at the National Stadium in Lima on 21 November 2023. (Photo by ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP)

The government of Venezuela lambasted Peru on Wednesday following a controversial football match, at one point accusing Lima of kidnapping its national team by refusing to allow the aircraft bringing the players home to refuel.

The diplomatic spat began following a 1-1 draw between the two countries’ teams in a 2026 World Cup qualifier, after which Venezuelan players accused Peruvian police of beating them as they went to greet fans Tuesday night.

Following a delay in the plane’s departure on Wednesday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yvan Gil said Peru had carried out “another arbitrary act against the Venezuelans by preventing the plane bringing the team back from refueling.”

“This is kidnapping as vengeance against our team which played an extraordinary match” in Lima, he added.

Almost four hours after the scheduled takeoff, however, the Rutaca airline plane finally began its journey at 2:53 pm (1953 GMT).

The delay “occurred for purely administrative reasons related to fuel supply” the company that operates Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima said.

Gil confirmed that the team was “undertaking its return to Caracas safely” after the Peruvian government ordered fuel supplies.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that the “xenophobia of that racist oligarchy of Peru has been unleashed against our noble team. Venezuela has raised its voice to protest against xenophobia, violence, and aggression.”

Tuesday’s game marked a tumultuous night for the South American qualifiers, following a match between Brazil and Argentina in Rio de Janeiro which saw ugly clashes between fans.

‘They hit me twice’

Venezuelan footballer Nahuel Ferraresi earlier showed bandages on his right hand, saying Peruvian police “beat me.”

“These are things which should not happen. The match was over and we went to thank our Venezuelan supporters,” he said.

Ferraresi said another player had handed his jersey over to fans, and he was about to throw his to the crowd when the police blocked him.

“Then others got angry, I don’t know what happened, and (the police) took out their batons to hit us. They hit me twice… but it’s not a serious injury.”

Videos of the incident, which show Peruvian police officers brandishing their batons against the players, have gone viral on social media.

Venezuela’s football federation condemned “acts of discrimination and xenophobia” against the team and their fans.

After the draw, Peru is in last place in the qualifiers, while Venezuela — which has never qualified for a World Cup — is in an unprecedented fourth place.

Before the match, Peruvian police carried out an unusual identity check among fans and were accused of targeting Venezuelans.

This move comes a week after a controversial decree came into force authorizing the government to expel foreigners.

Peru is home to some 1.5 million Venezuelan immigrants, many of whom have fled a crippling economic crisis at home.

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