ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES —- When Daniel Passarella took over as president of River Plate to become the only person also to have played and coached there, he said his first job was to fix the finances with the club in debt and overspending every month.
The elaborate and stupid relegation system, averaging points obtained over three seasons, meant one could not blame a single person, coach or president, for relegation and Passarella took over a club full of problems left by previous bad, and perhaps corrupt, administration.
However he has not won what he calls the “economic campaign” either and River Plate have continued to lose money every month.
When the accounts for the year are presented any day now, they will show a loss of £4.3m and a debt of around £5m while players are complaining that they are owed three months’ salaries and bonuses.
One major source of revenue for the club was renting their stadium for concerts but these have just been banned for a year by the city authorities because alcoholic drinks were sold at a recent show by Iron Maiden.
This may not have been the club’s fault but it happened at their stadium and they should have watched out.
But one of Passarella’s last acts before he ends his presidential term next month was to have coach Ramón Díaz sign a two-year contract extension until 2015 with steep increases for him and his coaching staff of 40pc for next year and another 30pc for 2015, which outstrips inflation.
Passarella had no right to do this while Díaz was perhaps happy to sign it because, although he is an idol at the club, he may fear it would not be renewed after the team’s poor performances.
But after all the protests, he agreed to present his contract to the new committee which takes over on December 15 and let them decide how much he should be paid. He even said he would work for nothing (which this columnist doubts).
Lack of confidence
Díaz often gives the impression of having lost confidence and this is unfortunately transferred to the players. He talks too much, as if trying to give himself confidence and he changes the team week after week, sometimes completely, which is one reason why they hardly get together and, as many say, “play at nothing.”
This must be Díaz’s fault and shows lack of confidence also in his player. He seems to have never got past the pre-season training stage.
One of River Plate’s chief faults is lack of goals – only 10 in 17 league games so far.
They create plenty of opportunities but the ball does not go between the posts. Yet he let goal-scoring Luna go and Trezeguet who, if injury prone and ageing, could still score a few goals as reserve.
Some of the newly contracted men for whom Diaz asked did not hit it off, nor did he give them much of a chance. But Díaz was a goal-scoring centre-forward and surely he could have taught them a thing or two.
Díaz prides himself on having been the River Plate coach (in the past) who has won most titles; if he stays much longer he could become the coach who has lost most.
There are rumours that Díaz’s son, Emiliio, who is assistant coach, has a lot of influence in the movement of players and that this has a lot to do whether they are his friends or not.
Also, he was given the biggest increase of 200pc under the new contract deal and many wonder what he to earn it. Another rumour is that four players – Bottinelli, Cristian Ledesma, Fabbro and Mora – will leave at the end of the season.
The rumour has been denied, yet all four have been left out of teams. But they are not bad players and surely Díaz could have worked on them and given them more chances to play.
River Plate also have a time bomb in Teofilo Gutiérrez who has caused trouble at several clubs – at Racing here – and who was expected to score goals. He has already protested about his team mates not giving him enough ball.
Another time bomb waiting to explode is that a gang of hooligans, now reinforced by groups from other parts of Buenos Aires, and which are not given the name of “official gang,” are ready to return to the stands.
This is expected to cause more trouble with the curiously named “official gang.”
Most of this “rebel” group have police records – not that this seems to matter anymore – and are part of the gang involved in the Acro murder which earned some of them long jail and even life sentences.
As for the latter, the leaders of that gang, the Schlenker brothers, received life sentences but are still free two years later. A court is supposed to confirm the sentences and perhaps never will. Perhaps it is a matter of money.
It is being said that these former “newcomers” have the usual political and police connections. Their numbers are larger, but where did they get 200 tickets from to attend a recent match?
The two main presidential candidates of the four for next month’s elections were quick to deny that they had anything to do with this group, but the rumour is that the leaders of the gang – one of them calls himself Bin Laden – are trying to reach agreement with the main candidates.
It all points to forthcoming ugly battles again and, possibly, even more deaths.