ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: The current local 30-club championship continues to be close, contrary to expectations.
One third has been completed and the old classic enemies, River Plate and Boca Juniors – which have won most of the titles – find themselves joint leaders with San Lorenzo and Rosario Central.
This has not happened for a long time and they will meet as joint leaders next month, not once but three times (twice in the Cipa Libertadores).
The last time this happened was 16 years ago in the 1999 opening championship.
Now all the talk is about these three matches and their continual meetings are growing tedious – except for River and Boca fans, many of whom consider the result as more important than winning a title.
But other issues are at hand.
When the former president of the Argentinian federation, the late Julio Grondona, thought up this bloated championship, the clubs agreed with him – as they always did to keep in his good books – though there were dark mutterings against it.
He said it would increase excitement and quality but reduce tension and clubs would give coaches more time to work, there would be less violence and it would be more profitable.
His dream had no connection with reality. All this never happened. In other words, he sold them a barrel of rotten fish. Many games are poor and with an average of 2.30 goals per game – the lowest in years – excitement is lacking in most matches.
If it reduced tension, one wonders whose tension. Not that of club committees and seven coaches had already left clubs this season with others on a tight rope.
There is no less violence and, as for profitable, longer and more frequent journeys to the provinces cost money. Somebody at the AFA needs a more coherent dream. People may not remember that a year ago, the AFA was also studying the possibility of having a 36-team tournament in 2016.
Although the championship is even, with more than half the games either drawn or decided by one goal, only two of the promoted 10 teams are in the top half of the table or the relegation standings (Sarmiento and Unión).
This is not taking into account Argentinos Juniors who were in last year’s top division anyway.
There is also a squabble about Arsenal winning their first match (3-0) against Newell’s Old Boys but having included a player who was serving a two-match suspension and had only served only one.
The Rosario club are claiming the points while Arsenal say the player had fulfilled the other in a reserves match.
The Newell’s claim is to be reviewed by the disciplinary committee this week but a decision could take up to a month, or even longer for reasons which are baffling. How long does it take to read the rules?
Vélez Sarsfield have said they want to win the economic championship before the one out on the pitch.
This is a healthy idea for all clubs whose debts are increasing steadily. But Daniel Passarella said the same thing when president of River Plate. He lost the economic championship because the club’s debt was larger when he left and the club were relegated to the National Division B.
It is time that the AFA puts a transfer embargo on clubs whose debts increase more than their income, in line with the UEFA concept.
Velez have always been an example for other clubs in the way it handles its finances with fewer transfers as well as being among the leading clubs.
Current president Raúl Gamez was also president when the club won the 2005 championship but now he says players with high contracts will have to go – some already have – and others will have to accept lower contracts.
He even said he wants a team of amateurs, figuratively speaking, by the end of the season and in 2016 he would form the squad with junior division players.
Banfield coach Almeyda complained the other day that the so-called southern classic against winners Lomas was spoiled by the referee sending off four players but this should be more common as referees are still not strict enough, despite having been ordered to be more strict by the AFA at the beginning of the season.
Independiente’s president, Hugo Moyano, complained in no uncertain words that referees were against his club so the officials’ union is considering taking legal action against him. The slow-moving court system means this will not get anywhere.
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