ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: Arsenal, the Sarandi club, have just won the Copa Argentina and are second in the Initial Championship. They are a small club and have perhaps the lowest budget in the top division but they have a football team which cannot be said for many clubs even like big River Plate and Boca Juniors.
One of their advantages over the likes of River Plate and Boca Juniors is that they have had the same coach, Gustavo Alfaro, for several years.
Of course they have won four trophies under him, but they know their own limitations and would not dismiss him if they lost a few matches.
Another advantage is that while big clubs sign star names without apparently thinking whether they would fit in or not, while selling good players to keep going, Arsenal have to make do with some players who may not have had a good season at other clubs and are more easily available while the coach sees some potential in them . . . and it often works.
But Arsenal do have something against them – referees.
There are a lot of opinions that referees favour the club because Argentine FA chief Julio Grondona [FIFA’s senior vice-president and finance chairman] was one of the founding members and played for them. He is their great fan while his son, Julio junior, is the club president. Julio senior never goes to watch matches so as to avoid suspicion, but always rang up right after the game to find out the result.
Now, with the government’s football for all programme and free TV of all top division games, he can watch them on TV. Yet referees may feel they are being watched too closely and may react by favouring rivals.
The idea of a competitive match between Arsenal and their famous namesake of London does not look so remote now.
At least Argentina’s Arsenal now have a chance. As Copa Argentina winners, they qualified for next year’s Libertadores Cup, the winner of which goes to the Club World Cup. London’s Arsenal, doing better of late, just might win the Champions League and also go to the Club World Cup.
Of course before such an eventuality both Arsenals have a long way to go and must beat strong rivals on the way but, theoretically, Arsenal v Arsenal is a little nearer than before.
Thought for the football day . . .
Question: Why was there such a fuss in Argetina about the fighting between players of Boca Juniors and Godoy Cruz after last week-end’s match ?
Answer: Because it rarely happens nowadays.
In the old days it was different. There were frequent fights among players, even causing the suspension of some matches.
On the other hand, there were no hooligan gangs fighting each other and among themselves inside and outside stadiums.
But fighting among players never killed anybody while this week a boy was murdered in Rosario by Central hooligans – death number 280 – because he was singing in favour of Newell’s Old Boys.
Were the old days not preferable? Then we had ‘only’ players fighting and not armed hooligan gangs.