ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: The confused legacy of Julio Grondona is already being dismantled by Argentinian clubs, just two months after the death of the long-time dictator of the country’s football.
Grondona was senior vice-president and finance chairman of world federation FIFA and his death has left Argentina without a seat at the top table of the international game.
First of Grondona’s ideas to go is the 30-club top division format which was due to take effect at the start of next year in a complex scheme linked to the government’s TV rights investment.
Moves to scrap the idea began among the leading clubs within weeks of Grondona’s death. They had disagreed with the system but had not dared to oppose Grondona for fear of the consequences of crossing him.
Now it has been agreed that the scheme will last for only one year.
Ten clubs will be promoted at the end of the year from a specially arranged tournament currently under way and more clubs will be promoted from lower divisions to divisions above.
But, as the most likely outcome will be a return to a 20-club top division – hopefully again in the more exciting two separate rounds as before – the real problem is how 10 clubs will be relegated at the end of 2015.
The silly relegation system – also created by Grondona – of average points obtained over the last three seasons may make it more difficult for the 10 promoted clubs (which have no previous average) to stay up.
More immediately, this weekend’s River Plate v Boca Juniors clasico prompted the usual ticket scandal even while River were still being investigated for previous irregularities.
Tickets were being offered on two websites at enormous prices but the club said on Tuesday that they had not even been printed and had denounced the websites offering tickets.
It is high time that President Cristina Kirchner created a special corps to investigate criminals involved in sports.
Such a task force would have plenty of work to investigate club officials and the hooligans they help as well as to enforce compliance with FIFA’s new ban on third-party ownership which is widespread in Argentina.
At Boca Juniors, when Rodolfo Arruabarrena took over as coach from Carlos Bianchi, the team suddenly changed after their poor 1-0-3 record by beating Vélez Sarfield 1-0 and under their new coach have since had a 3-1-1 record.
It took only one training initial session for Arruabarrena to sort out the changes which clearly worked. Coincidentally Vélez Sarsfield, who topped the table by winning their first four matches, lost form and have since drawn two games and lost three.
One player who has clearly benefited from the coaching change at Boca is Argentina midfielder Fernando Gago who has greater freedom in the absence of Juan Román Riquelme.
Independiente’s position in second place in the first division after nine games can be counted as another miracle after struggling all last season to finally gain promotion … perhaps because they are now receiving the salaries and bonuses unpaid by the previous administration.
On the other hand, their new coach for this season, Jorge Almirón did gain promotion with an average team like Defensa y Justicia last season.
River Plate won last season’s closing championship under coach Ramón Díaz, so their success this season is not unexpected but they are playing better football under Marcelo Gallardo – though this is more effective in the dry.
River’s match at Arsenal last month never started after River officials persuaded the referee to abandon without a ball being kicked. The rescheduled match took place amid heavy early rain and saw River drop their first point.
More of a problem for River Plate is that they line up several national team players for Argentina and other South American countries and the championship is not being suspended during FIFA’s international window.
River have complained but the AFA says there are no dates available what with four Argentinian clubs in the quarterfinals of the South American club cup.
Really, it all comes down to bad organisation of fixtures by the AFA.
National team coach Gerardo Martino added his complaints to the bad fixture organisation and other things which he had already voiced when coach of Newell’s Old Boys two years ago and which was part of the reason why he left.
He is due to leave with the national team for matches against Brazil and Hong Kong and national team players will miss at least two week-ends.
On one of these weekends River Plate face Newell’s Old Boys – where he played and is still a fan.
If he takes River Plate players on the tour, he will be blamed for helping Newell’s.
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