May 21, 2013
AFA changes its mind again
Government’s timid fight against hooligans
LONDON — A lot of people in Argentina watch English soccer on TV which is why on some weekends last season no less than six Premier Division matches were shown. In England, there are not quite as many Argentine matches on TV, but there is plenty of interest. River Plate's relegation last year made headlines, but what local fans really wonder at is Argentina's stupid relegation system, why they continually change the championship format and have two champions per season and why hooligans are backed by their clubs, the courts and police, as well as the government.
The latest news is that the Argentine Football Association (AFA) changed its mind again only a few days before the start of the season. Earlier this year, they finally appeared to have found some sense by declaring there would be only one champion to be decided between the winners of the opening and closing tournaments. But common sense is in short supply at the AFA and this week they decided there would still be two champions of the opening and closing championship, although (so far) the two winners would still clash in a match at the end of the season.
Of more sense is that the government's Security Ministry has finally taken a couple of timid steps — hopefully only the first — to fight soccer hooligans. Firstly, they have banned flags of over two metres in stadiums which not only hinder the view of some spectators, but also allow hooligans to carry on their illicit business (drugs, stealing) behind them which can not be filmed by cameras. Secondly, police from the nearest precinct will no longer be in charge of security at the stadium, but a long talked about special force is being formed (50% private agents) to rotate between stadiums so that hooligans can not form relationships with them as they have been doing.
The trouble is that these regulations can only come into force in the capital, but hopefully provincial authorities will follow suit. Yet this would only be timid first steps to stop the power of the hooligans and eventually eliminate them altogether. As said so often, sanctions would also have to be taken against people helping them and laws against their illicit actions need to be enforced and made more severe.
TRANSFERS. The season will be without three idols — Juan Sebastián Verón and Esteban Fuertes (retired) and Juan Román Riquelme (wanting to move abroad) and once again, there has been the intense movement of players prior to the start of the season as clubs believe they are strengthening their teams. With still a few days to go, 140 players have signed for the 20 top division clubs and 185 have moved out. As always, more players have moved out than in, but most clubs still have too many players on their books.
Boca Juniors has caused the first problem. Problems with their charter plane meant that they may not be back in time for their first match against Quilmes tomorrow, but it should be played. Sending the team to play in Venezuela for friendlies just before the season was a mistake by money-grabbing officials. Also, apart from their top player Riquelme, three other first teamers like striker Mouche and some good reserves have left and they look weaker.
Closing champion Arsenal hastransferred leading striker Leguizamón to Independiente, while second-placed Tigre will be without two of its best men (closing championship top scorer Luna and R. Martínez). Successful clubs can never hold on to their best players. In Luna and G. Castillejos, Lanús has bagged last season’s two top scorers of the top two divisions, making up for the loss of Pavone, but there was still a mystery about Luna who failed to turn up for training.
Independiente starts with the worst relegation average and although it has signed 10 new players, it looks no stronger. They finished with over 50 players last season and got rid of 18. So many changes will do little for team work as at San Lorenzo just above them in the averages after just missing relegation last season. They signed 13 new players, but none of note except Stracqualursi, a leading scorer two seasons ago who failed to hit it off in England. Both clubs look like struggling again, but perhaps not Newell's Old Boys who is also in the relegation bottom three, but was turned round to a wining team by coach Gerardo Martino last season and hasmade perhaps the best signing in Maxi Rodriguez who shone with England's Liverpool.
Racing Club has signed two scoring strikers among nine signings, Sand and Cámpora, who however need to recuperate their form, but they lost excellent Giovanni Moreno thanks to their hooligans who threatened him. River Plate could not hold on to strikers Cavenaghi and Domínguez, but fortunately hasnot sold any more young stars up to the present. They should nevertheless by one promoted team — the only one this season — not to suffer relegation worries in their first season.
The question has always been how can a club get strongers by signing so many players not long before the season starts. Argentinos Juniors and Godoy Cruz also signed 10 new players each. Only struggling San Martín (San Juan) and Vélez Sarsfield (as usual) have signed fewest, only four, but the latter, who was close but did not win anything last season, has let some good players go.
It all points to the fact that unless some new stars emerge, no team is going to be stronger than last season.