ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: All this past season in Argentina it appeared as if referees were helping Boca Juniors on to win the league championship.
Perhaps it was a political request to keep ‘half the population plus one’ happy in election year. But last week’s match in Córdoba, where Rosario Central were playing Boca Juniors in the Copa Argentina final, they went too far.
Boca Juniors won 2-0 with two clearly goals not valid – one a penalty given for a foul three metres outside the penalty area and another from a clear offside position.
The referee admitted later that he had erred – “the biggest mistake of my career” – and even Boca Juniors coach Rodolfo Arrubarrena admitted that the penalty was not valid and the offside goal was not clear.
The Argentinian football association also agreed that the decisions were wrong by suspending indefinitely both the referee and his lineman (now called ‘referees’ assistant’). But what did all this help Rosario Central, the sensation of the season?
Rosario Central want a replay. The whole country (Boca excepted) wants a replay but the AFA has done nothing in that direction at the time of wring. As far as can be remembered, a match has not been replayed here but there have been at least 10 matches replayed for various reasons in different countries.
A replay would have been easy to arrange. The two clubs met again on the last day of the league in Rosario last Sunday. The match could have counted for both league and cup.
In this case, Central showed their superiority to win 3-1, but Boca Juniors left out several first team players which left them a ready-made excuse. But staging a replay here would produce dozens of requests for games to be played again in view of the numerous errors committed by referees.
FIFA says that refereeing errors are part of the game. They may be part of the game, but only when they are human errors — and there are too many nowadays because of the speed of the game — but not for ‘fixing’ a match result. But FIFA and AFA have both done little to save the most popular game of soccer putting money first, and are presently both embroiled in corruption.
The other revelation of the season were Nueva Chicago, at least during the second half of the season. It took 20 rounds before they could get their first win and by then they were certain relegation candidates.
After only picking up eight points from the first 19 games, they collected 18 from the last 11, including victories in their last five games and this gave them hopes of a relegation playoff until the very last day.
By creating qualifying Libertadores Cup (for third to seventh place) and South American Cup groups (from eighth to 20th), it was expected to add more interest for the final rounds of the tournament, but it was hardly so. There was more interest at the bottom.
Nueva Chicago won, but needed both Huracán and Temperley to lose. They drew in what looked like arranged results which suited all four. The downside is that the Nueva Chicago players, who fought so hard to avoid the drop and were only one point short, have not been paid a salary and ‘aguinaldo’ for five months and there is no news on when they will collect their money now hat the season is over.
Both the AFA and FIFA will have presidential elections soon and the question is whether it will change anything for the better?
AFA’s former president, Julio Grondona, was caught, among other things in a telephone conversation talking about fixing referees though he did some good things for Argentinian football.
But no one person can be clever enough never to make mistakes when managing a big company or association.. What is needed is frank discussion between a group (the committee) but the AFA has committees of people,who all pull for their own clubs rather than the game itself.