ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: The Copa Libertadores clasico between River Plate and Boca Juniors, watched by more than 60,000 in the River Plate stadium and millions more on TV, showed what is wrong with Argentinian club football – dirty play and poor refereeing.
It is not unusual, when teams meet several times in a short period, for play to become rougher. River Plate often play good football but they have also become a dirty team. One of their priorities was to remove Boca Juniors schemer Fernando Gago from the game. The man assigned the job, Leonel Vangoni, nearly managed it with one of those sliding tackles which have already forced two players off the pitch with long-term injuries this season.
However Vangoni was shown only a yellow card instead of a red for an assault which missed his target and only tore Gago’s socks. Afterwards he said that was because the socks were of poor quality.
Another River Plate player, Teo Gutiérrez, also made a sliding tackle which sent unpenalised by the referee, although he was sent off later for a silly foul to leave his team with 10 men.
River Plate collected 23 million pesos from match tickets alone, but they should have their stadium closed by CONMEBOL as fireworks went off during the match which is prohibited. Presumably, because it is River Plate, CONBEBOL will only stop a few seats for being used as it did before.
Then there was the business of River Plate officials having to watch last Sunday’s league match at Boca Juniors sitting on the floor in the dressing room, because their promised seats were occupied.
That was because tickets given to Boca’s hooligan fans to sell at high prices are sometimes false.
Another common blunder are staging rock concerts and mass events in the big clubs’ stadia which leave the pitches in poor condition and contributes to lowering the quality of the football on view. This favours weaker rivals.
The argument is that the clubs need the money but surely the priority for a football club should a good pitch . . . apart, of course, from more sensible officials.