ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: Argentina’s crazy 30-team national top division continues to be close with around 70pc of the matches either being drawn or decided by one goal, but still only two of the teams which came up from last year’s top division (Union and Sarmiento)  are in the upper half of the table after 12 matches.

But the tournament has one record. It has the biggest league in the world, if that is anything to celebrate.

Arsenal  who (have won only one of their 12 games, are next to the bottom above Nueva Chicago who have not won any games this season), have just signed  Caruso Lombardi who has saved around half a dozen clubs from relegation.

The club are not in real relegation danger, but they will be if they go on like this.

Arsenal’s only victory – 3-0 against Newell’s Old Boys a month ago – would be taken away from them for fielding a suspended player. This week, the disciplinary committee said it will make a decision next week (for the third time) and it is becoming suspicious.

Perhaps, the rule covering this is not quite clear and has been interpreted differently in the past and the committee is in two minds to know what to do.

Arsenal will likely lose the game 1-0 but the doubt seems to be whether to give Newell’s Old Boys the three victory points although in the last ninecases that has been done.

Lombardo is Arsenal’s third coach this season. His speciality is to save teams from relegation and he has already achieved it with half a dozen teams. Caruso Lombardi becomes the eighth coaching change by a top division club this season and fans of several other clubs are asking their coach to leave under the belief that he is the only one playing.

The case of Jorge Almirón is not usual. He has had opposition from fans for a long time, but not from the Moyano family which rules the club, nor from the players who have said several times that they want him to stay.

Sometimes teams improve with a change of coach for there can be a variety of reasons. As mentioned before, players sometimes play better with a different style. But it should not be forgotten that recently Almirón gained promotion to the top division for Defensa y Justicia with a modest bunch of players. The team gained promotion by playing well.

As the journalist ‘Chavo’ Fuchs has said, fans in the past maybe knew more about the game than today’s supporters but the latter are more fanatical.

Artificial pitches

Lower division club Excursionistas will be the first in the Buenos Aires Province area to play league games on artificial turf.

Some of the top division clubs have artificial pitches for training purposes. Excursionistas are not the only one in Argentina however. Rio Negro’s Cipoletti of the Argentinian A Division (a division for provincial clubs)below the National B Division) also plays on an artificial field.

The climate in the south of the country often makes it difficult to play on grass (many fields have no grass), strong winds or snow

The game is very different on grass and artificial fields – as field hockey’s game has changed completely. The discussion in football has not yet begun that games in a championship should all be played on the same type of field.

The club with an artificial field has a distinct advantage at least for home games as it can train on both grass and artificial while rivals can not.

The Argentinian FA (AFA) now can not rightly stop clubs playing on approved artificial turf in the championship as it would be the only Association in the world to do this and FIFA would not approve.

On the other hand, the AFA can not oblige all clubs to buy artificial fields as they are expensive and clubs will plead that they have not got the money.

It should be noted however that field hockey clubs in the different first divisions must now all play on artificial fields – some 200 in the Metropolitan championships alone – and field hockey is an amateur sport. This is necessary because all mayor tournaments – World Cups, World League, Olympic Games, Pan-American Games, etc –.are played on artificial fields

The advantage of artificial fields is that they need far less maintenance and climatic conditions do not affect them so much as grass. But when clubs organise concerts or other events at their stadium, thousands of people jumping up and down on them would not do artificial fields any good.

Football players need to know however that if you slide on artificial fields it would hurt much more than on the softer grass. The ball would bounce more and perhaps heavier balls would partly solve this problem, as well as playing the ball lower on the field instead of high passes.

In this year’s Copa Libertadores River Plate players found difficulty in playing on an artificial field in Peru. This field was in poor condition and players were also wondering what shoes to use. Certainly not the same they use on grass. Studs would have to be shorter or on gym shoes on which however they would slide more.