Mexican Season Kicks Off Under Dark Shadow of Kidn

Mexican Season Kicks Off Under Dark Shadow of Kidnapping and Doping BansnewsMEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The Mexican championship kicks off on Saturday under a long shadow cast by the kidnapping of Cruz Azul coach Ruben Omar Romano and one-year doping bans for two players from the team known as the Cementeros.Cruz Azul will open the Apertura the first of two championships played in the 2005-06 season at home to Morelia on Saturday. The Mexican Football Federation (FMF) has ordered the match to go ahead despite the kidnapping of Romano who was abducted by heavily-armed men after leaving a training session in the southern suburbs of Mexico City on July 19. The Argentine coach's family say they have had no contact from the kidnappers. Assistant coach Isaac Mizrahi has the difficult task of leading the team in Romano's absence. 'All I'm doing is saving his place. I'm trying to look after things as well as possible and that's the way we try and get through every day' said Mizrahi. 'He's going to be back here very soon.' Cruz Azul have been boosted by the signing of Mexico midfielder Gerardo Torrado who has returned home after two years in Spain. But they are without Mexican internationals Aaron Galindo and Salvador Carmona who have been banned for one year for doping offences. The pair were sent home from last month's Confederations Cup in Germany for failing a routine test before Mexico had left for the competition. FRANCHISE SYSTEM As usual the 18 teams play each other once in the qualifying stage of the tournament and are divided into three groups of six. The top two in each group plus the two sides with the best overall records qualify for the quarter-finals. Champions America the country's richest club are in Group One alongside Morelia Necaxa UAG Atlante and San Luis. Brazilian midfielder Irenio Soares America's new signing will face his former club Tigres at the Azteca stadium on Sunday. 'Our target has to be to win the title again' said coach Mario Carillo. 'The most important thing for America is to win.' San Luis have replaced relegated Puebla but otherwise there have been no changes in the championship which uses a United States-style franchise system in which clubs are allowed to move from one location to another. UNAM coached by outspoken former Real Madrid and Mexico striker Hugo Sanchez and Guadalajara who field only domestic players are the teams with most to prove. Having won two championships in a row the 2003-04 Clausura and 2004-05 Apertura UNAM failed to reach the knockout stages last time round. The Pumas also missed out on a coveted place at FIFA's World Club Championship in December when they lost to Costa Rica's Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions League final. Guadalajara who claim to be the country's most popular club are attempting to win their first title since flamboyant businessman Jorge Vergara bought the club in 2002.