The Sport Lisboa e Benfica athletics team will be, this weekend, at the European Champion Clubs Cup (ECCC), in Spain, fighting for the victory. It will face the clubs event with the confidence conferred by its athletes’ potential, while being Senior Vice-champions and U20 European Champions, supported by the long-established bet on youth training.
With less than a week to go before the event in Playas de Castellón, SL Benfica was, yet, surprised by an official communication by the European Athletic Association (EAA). This entity states that the athlete Pedro Pablo Pichardo Peralta will not be able to compete as a Portuguese citizen, sustained by a previous decision by the International Association of the Athletics Federations (IAAF).
The Federação Portuguesa de Atletismo (FPA), middle part in the entire registration process, is aware of these bureaucratic developments.
SL Benfica stresses its total disagreement with this strange "deliberation", pointing out some legitimate questions:
- Pedro Pichardo is Portuguese, with all the rights conferred by this citizenship, for almost a year and a half. Will he still be considered Cuban to EAA? Or is he just a stateless person?
- Pedro Pichardo is Portuguese in the competitions held in Portugal, where he already tasted several national titles and, inclusively, triumphed at the prestigious Diamond League in 2018, with the Portuguese Flag accepted in the registration and even on TV graphics, but loses his nationality in the main European Clubs Competition?
- Having, allegedly, identified the situation at the ECCC last year — a year ago! —, the EAA kept silent in what concerns to this matter, without any alert or initiative to contact Benfica or the FPA. Not even when received, at the beginning of this year, the preliminary registrations sent by the club.
Why is this communication addressed now to SL Benfica, when the competition starts in a few days, at a moment when it is almost impossible to get another athlete ready to replace Pichardo and concerning its ambition to win the triple jump in Playas de Castellón?
- Was the EAA influenced by any other team? Is not the EAA aware that the decision, the respective communication and its timing might affect the Benfica’s sporting potential and its aim to win the European title?
- The EAA organization is using a picture of Pedro Pichardo to promote the ECCC on social media, perfectly associated with the Portuguese flag...
But already today a new unsatisfactory answer was obtained and with no support on the competition’s official regulation. The EAA keeps omitting that it is up to the FPA to inform the athletes’ illegibility, as being national or foreigners. This information was reinforced by the FPA, but the EAA prefers to lean on a rule by the IAAF which recognizes the participation within the scope of national teams instead of the clubs.
The EAA is taking the shelter of the IAAF regulation in order to consider the athlete as a foreigner, but the international federation does not allow the participation of any foreigner in its competitions. All of this is, at least, incoherent.
For Sport Lisboa e Benfica there is a lack of sensibility and management capacity scenario of an entity which should always act in defense of the sport, not allowing eventual strategies capable of limiting athletes, clubs and even the national federations.
It is hard, by now, to draw a conclusion any different from a political persecution to Portugal, to SL Benfica, eight-time national champions and Portuguese representative at the ECCC, and to the world class athlete Pedro Pichardo.
For Benfica, the best triple jump athlete in the world in 2018 is a Portuguese citizen and has the same rights as any other European citizen. This is exactly what is legislated by the European Parliament and, in this regard, an intervention in the community justice is being considered.
Therefore, Pedro Pichardo will be the athlete presented by SL Benfica in the triple jump event.
For these reasons, SL Benfica informs that will be competing under protest at this ECCC. Still, it should be highlighted the club’s investment and the valorization towards the Athletics, historical sport at the club, based on the European ambition targeted by the board.
It is with this dream and competitive feeling that the Portuguese Champions will be on the running track, no matter what.