ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: Argentina’s new cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich, who seems to have taken over the presidency, will hardly score 272 goals during 2014 but he says those are the number of projects to be accomplished during the year.
Hopefully they include getting rid of soccer hooligans but he has not announced this yet. He did, however, announce modifications in the “Free soccer for all” television contract with the Argentine football association which cost the government £60m in the first year (2009) and is now worth more than double (£140m).
Although originally it was mentioned Marcelo Tinelli’s Ideas del Sur might take it over, the more sensible project now is to hold an auction to produce the programme which would do away with the suspicion that present producer La Corte receives all the cake because it is close to the government.
Also, Capitanich proposes to open the programme to private advertising and not only government propaganda and one truck manufacturer so that the government would make some money from it at last. So far it had been a total financial loss.
AFA chief Julio Grondona has also been to see Capitanich and probably expounded his own idea of forming AFATV which, presumably would have to enter the auction for televised football since the 10-year AFA-government contract is still valid.
When it began, the government offered far more than Torneos y Competencias previously and the AFA will find that no company can offer as much as the government without making a loss.
At the same time, the government’s increased offer, aimed at helping debt-riddled clubs, was no help at all since club debts increased. This is another issue Capitanich wants to investigate since the AFA did not do anything about it.
Prosecutors on trial . . .
Last March, prosecutor José María Campagnoli managed to put 11 people on trial in the long-standing case of threats to referee Sergio Pezzotta at half-time of the match which saw River Plate relegated three years ago.
The 11 included, apart from hooligans, a former employee, the club’s security chief, two committee members and a policeman. There has been no trial yet.
In September, he managed to send nine more hooligans fror a trial which has yet to be held. Now Campagnoli was investigating the River Plate ticket scandal in which match tickets meant for members went on the black market through the hooligan gang and which also involved committee members.
He was edging too close to power and was suspended on what looked very much like government orders.
Last year, there was a similar ticket fraud at Boca Juniors with tickets for members going to the hooligan gang for black market sale and involving employees and the committee.
Club president Daniel Angelici grew frightened and tried to have the investigating judge (Manuel de Campos) removed. Perhaps he was successful since there has been no more news of the case.
Justice in Santa Fe has been more successful – or does that mean less interference from the provincial government?
A court in Rosario sent Newell’s Old Boys gang leaders to prison. There are orders to capture three Colón gang leaders on the run while former Colón president Germán Lerche could face sanctions for evading taxes and trying to get a hooligan on the run free of jail.
Ticket going to hooligans and their obvious connection with the former committee are also being actively investigated.
Eduardo López, who was president of Newell’s Old Boys for 14 years with the help of the hooligan gang, was finally ordered to court to testify for fraudulent administration, but the case could by annulled by the statute of limitation by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the club must pay £7m debts from Lopez’s administration this year.
Clubs’ dark side . . .
Clubs continue not to collaborate with the courts in cases involving their hooligan gangs. This has been evident all along in the above mentioned cases, but there are plenty of other example.
San Lorenzo player Juan Mercier was attacked by a club hooligan and told the committee which took a long time before they denounced the attack to the police.
While away fans are not allowed to attend matches as such, San Lorenzo’a hooligans gave tickets to the Boca Juniors hooligans headed by Rafael Di Zeo which is the group not helped by their club committee – not what they call the “official gang”.
The 300 tickets were handed over by a San Lorenzo employee who, when investigated, implicated three other employees of the club and said he was complying with orders.
When Judge De Campo finally questioned club authorities, he was told that the police authorised the handing over of tickets (which is doubtful). That day Di Zeo’s gang, who could not obtain tickets from their own club, fought with the so-called “official gang” which left two dead.
In Lanús, a gang leader was given a life sentence following an internal fight – always for money – which left one dead and five injured and also investigated is former president Nicolás Russo for giving false testimony.
But club officials never seem to receive jail sentences. They always say they do not know their hooligan gang, which is not true.
Huracán are just one club whose players are attacked frequently by their own hooligan gang because they think the players are not playing well enough, but the club rarely denounce the attack to the police which has resulted in some players wanting to leave.
If the police are informed, they send a squad car to training sessions for a few days and then leave . . . which leaves the hooligans free to do their “stuff” again.