May 26, 2013
Argentine soccer can never be absent from the headlines, even off-season and when incredibly missing from the ongoing London Olympics — before flying off to yesterday’s Mercosur summit in Brasilia, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner devoted her main Monday appearance to the national sport, at least nominally (there was also a lengthy digression for media rebuttal over other issues, an increasingly dominant part of her public addresses). It is worth asking whether the presidential devotion to the purported aim of fighting soccer violence, is not also somewhat nominal, given the mixed messages delivered — well short of the political will needed to make the announced technology against soccer hooligans work.
The secret weapon against hooligans takes the form of 100 electronic devices to detect their fingerprints — tested in public with a hilarious ineptitude which seemed to amuse rather than worry the national authorities present. While CFK thus committed herself to preventive action against soccer hooligans in future, she refused to accompany this with any verbal rejection of their atrocities in the past. Instead she elevated what is widely called the “passion of multitudes” into the “mystique of the fans,” even blaming bad refereeing for provoking crowd rage. CFK also contradicted herself as to the effectiveness of the new system (quite apart from the mismatches in the public testing) — in her zeal to underline the essential innocence of soccer, she stressed that most hooligan violence occurs outside stadiums as a result of gang disputes unrelated to sport but if everything happens outside, how does a system to control access to matches improve matters?
While on the subject of soccer, it is perhaps also worth asking whether the whole “Football for Everybody” scheme has been any more beneficial for soccer than these fingerprinting devices, despite the outlay of four billion pesos in the last three years. In just the first seven months of this year 78 percent of the budget has already been spent, thus requiring an emergency injection of 205 million pesos last week. Yet the spendthrift clubs are just as insolvent as three years ago despite this mammoth expenditure (most of which is actually for political propaganda) — worse, their finances are now threatened with pesofication like much of the economy (oceans of ink have poured forth to depict the case of Juan Román Riquelme with the deepest psychological complexity but it probably boils down to the extremely simple issue of a million-dollar contract being turned into pesos). Where will the ball roll next?