ERIC WEIL from BUENOS AIRES: Can Newell’s Old Boys repeat their Initial Championship win in Argentina’s Final Championship and do what has not been done in the last 14 tournaments?
The last double winners were Boca Juniors in 2005-06. With eight matches to go, Newell’s lead by three points and may make it, although it could be harder than last year.
The reason why a repeat is so rare is mostly found in repeated team changes. Champions are always tempted by top-money offers for some of their best players and money seems always more important than playing strength.
Newell’s, however, have made relatively few changes apart from losing their leading Inicial goalscorer Scocco to Porto Alegre’s Internacional. The big Brazilian clubs have more buying power than Argentina’s.
So many people do not understand why Argentina’s traditionally big clubs are now struggling and not winning all the titles as before.
Racing Club are bottom, River Plate in mid-table, San Lorenzo and Boca Juniors are equal third, but erratic, while Independiente and Huracán are languishing in the National B Division.
One reason is that officials (committee, etc.) are mostly not very efficient these days. In most clubs officials try to win elections just to have an important position and/or gain some benefits.
The bigger the club, the more difficult it is to run and therefore the more mistakes they make, resulting usually in higher debts and poor playing performances.
It is curious – or perhaps not – that the two club presidents (River Plate’s Daniel Passarella and Independiente’s Javier Cantero) who took the chair with the idea of cutting the club’s debts, saw their teams relegated.
That resulted in them being hated which is a pity because this is what should be done at every club.
Of course, they had to be careful with their spending on players and cut corners, while also reducing their playing staff and try to sell players for a good price. They are doing the right thing but this is not acceptable here. The only thing that counts is a successful football team, although these are all-sports clubs.
At Boca Juniors, the fans did not like coach Julio Falcioni because he did not like their now injury-plagued veteran idol Juan Román Riquelme and he was also blamed for too much defensive play and not keeping unity in the squad.
Yet, under him, they won the 2011 Opening Championship and the Copa Argentina. So they recalled Carlos Bianchi because under him they had won many titles earlier this century and the fans clamoured for him – which, on its own, is not the best of reasons.
Bianchi now had a worse team than then, but he liked Riquelme, who however cannot play in many matches these days. But so far Bianchi has not won anything.
Boca did make two good signings in Gigliotti, the last tournament’s leading scorer (with Scocco), and international Gago. Yet he also let several useful players go because they were not filling the bill.
Yet they are now doing better at other clubs such as Lanús which was the destination for striker Silva and midfielder Somozza who, imagine, made his international debut this week against Uruguay.
Bianchi does not command the dressing room, as they call it, and some internal rifts continue, while the team are also criticised for playing defensively.
So what was wrong with Falcioni? He was just not as popular as Bianchi!
Injuries and illness
Boca had one problem however in that injuries have affected them more than most clubs. At one time last week, as many as 18 players were sidelined. There was also an outbreak of contagious mumps and a danger of the whole team going down.
They do have difficulty in scoring goals, while having two goal scoring strikers in Blandi and Gigilotto. Perhaps the system is wrong and Bianchi’s warning that Blandi would be dropped if he did not score was hardly encouraging.
Still, Boca Juniors are only six points from the top and could surprise with more consistency.
Boca president Daniel Angelici continues to be linked closely to hooligans although he denies it. He must however be afraid of the current court investigation into their doings and links with officials.
Some time ago, the club made an arrangement with Barcelona about junior divisions. Last week he was in Madrid inspecting Real Madrid’s junior divisions. That is strange.
At River Plate, coach Ramón Díaz was another one chosen because he once won titles with the club … at another time with another team.
He replaced the club’s former midfielder Almeyda who had taken over at a difficult time and won promotion back into the top division. He was popular and there was a lot of criticism when Passarella fired him.
Now he is coach of National B Division leaders Banfield and will probably take that club back into the top division also.
Now Díaz talks too much and does too little – except if you count taking lollipops to a match in which the opponents had a lot of youngsters playing. Last week, he said he would stop talking which remains to be seen.
Perhaps that also means he would do more. In spite of making some mistakes in transfers in and out – which Passarella agreed to – River have a good squad but perhaps do not know how to use it.
A player such as Fabbro, for example, who shone in Paraguay, cannot be useless here and also he has not been given much chance. Surely, the coach, apart from selecting the team, can also teach him and others how he wants them to play.
Instead, Diáz is making numerous changes from one week to another and Pasarella now wants to sell Balanta, their best defender.
At Racing Club, the president and vice-president started a fighting match in the middle of the championship – just another example of how incompetent officials are just not cut out for the job.
The only justification I see is that the president is accused of running the club with the hooligans. Another mistake they made was to hire coach Reinaldo Merlo, because he had won the last title with Racing Club in 2001 – a reason? – and going against the wishes of the playing staff who wanted interim coach González to continue.
Merlo may be successful or not but it could have been important to let the players have their wish.
After all that, the impression, amid all this poor football, is that this championship will be won by the least bad team.
# # # # #