ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES —- Daniel Angelici, president of Boca Juniors, has just asked the most pertinent question in Argentina’s domestic game.
Angelici, newly-appointed second vice-president of the national association at the prodding of the government of Cristina Kirchner, had the temerity to ponder: “If the government decides everything, what is the AFA for?”
His question should prompt FIFA interest since the world federation has shown itself quick to act whenever it fears politicians are taking too direct a role in national football administration.
The latest twist in Argentina was prompted last week when it was confirmed that the gargantuan 30-club top division will start next August and run until mid-June 2016; a short tournament, with two groups of 15 clubs, would be played during the first half of 2015.
However this week the AFA decided that 2015’s ‘long championship’ would start in February and play through to the end of the year (with one champion and two clubs relegated); a short championship will then be played during the first half of 2016.
As you were . . .
In the next long championship, starting mid-2016, four clubs will be relegated and two promoted so as to go back to square one with 20 clubs.
Why the sudden change?
During the week the clubs met officials of the government’s Futbol Para Todos which provides free TV coverage of all top division matches and allows the government to rule the game since money talks louder than opinions.
The problem in 2015 however is that the transfer window in Europe in July/August will be halfway through the tournament, bringing changes in line-ups which an AFA regulation did not permit up to now.
This unnecessary mess was initiated by the late Julio Grondona while the clubs acquiesced because they dared not contest his wishes. Reverting to the current status quo was impossible because because that would mean refusing a government “request.”
Back in 2009, when the original TV deal with the government was signed, one contract clause demanded that any profit be divided 50/50 between the government and the AFA.
Of course, no profit ever accrued because of the high cost – with the usual overpricing in any government transaction – and because a year later it was decided not to accept any more private advertising and only government propaganda.
At the time the government said it had tried to attract private advertising and sponsorship funding but with such minimal success as to make the pursuit pointless.
Once this writer asked Grondona whether he feared the government would stop paying. He said No, because the agreement was with the state and not the government . . . without explaining the difference.
Latest reports suggest the government is already behind on its payments while a judicial investigation is also under way into the route of the money once it is handed over to the AFA.
It remains to be seen what the next government will do about this.
If the government wants to take over the running of Argentinian football – or at least have more of a say in the country’s most popular sport – it will be up against the hooligans who have virtually taken it over.
Practically every day, even when there are no matches, hooligans are in the news for fighting, now mostly among factions of the same club and mostly outside clubs, or killing opponents with numbers of deaths rising rapidly.
Understanding the rationale of this phenomenon is virtually impossible – beyond money plus minor or major political influence . . . or just to feel important.
Money is wasted by bringing in experts from England, Holland and Brazil. They always end up telling the same story – that with government, politicians, club officials, police and courts all refusing to act against the hooligans, nothing can be done here.
This week’s incidents at River Plate were merely the latest chapters in a story which does the club no good.
Innocent members – the ones who pay the club a steady monthly
sum in membership fees – were injured or threatened by a gang of between 70 and 100 of their own hooligans who broke into the club.
Some of the culprits were even club members who should have been expelled long ago.
The gang’s target was obtaining free tickets for the River-Boca South American Cup match from a chief of the so-called “official gang” — a strange description, if ever there was one — favoured by club officials.
He was in the club bar, among other members. He refused and was attacked and injured (How did he acquire his tickets? From club officials, of course!),
Security cameras were, as usual, switched off – “under repair” it was said.
River president Rodolfo D’Onofrio demanded hefty jail sentences but they would be more effectively levied against club officials who supply the Barras Bravas with tickets.
# # # #