May 24, 2013
CONMEBOL has made a fool out of itself
Federer visit needed better organization
The scandal after last week’s South American Cup final between São Paulo FC and Tigre at the former’s stadium had a culprit — the Brazilian club — but it was also largely the fault of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), because it has rarely taken the correct decisions in punishing offenders. And last week CONMEBOL made a real fool of itself by handing the trophy to the Brazilian club although only half the match had been played.
Can CONMEBOL not even read its own rules (which are world-wide)? A referee cannot finish a match before the 90 minutes (plus stoppages) are played, but can only suspend it and in this case a result is not awarded, the circumstances have to be investigated by a committee first... which was not done!
The circumstances are now well-known. Tigre players were attacked with sticks and even revolvers when they went off at half-time by about 30 members of the Brazilian club’s private security guards. Some players were injured, there was blood in the changing rooms, and the team rightly refused to go out for the second half. The whole scandal however seemed unnecessary, as a superior São Paulo FC were already winning 2-0, but these security guards appeared to be drugged. CONMEBOL officials appeared, but not to find out how the players were, nor to find out what happened, but to urge them to go and play the second half.
Last Wednesday, at the Libertadores Cup draw in Asunción, Tigre presented their case with the support of Argentine FA (AFA) chief Julio Grondona... but then Grondona had also promised his support to Independiente’s President Javier Cantero in fighting hooligans and look what happened. Actually nothing! But Tigre are too modest. All they asked for are tough sanction for São Paulo (economic and sporting) and that Tigre will not be punished in any way.
The rules say that if a team walks off and does not finish the match, it can be sanctioned, fined or even forbidden to take part in CONMEBOL tournaments — Tigre have already qualified for next year’s Libertadores Cup — but that would be ridiculous under the circumstances! Actually, it should be São Paulo FC who should be fined, have their stadium closed and be banned from the Libertadores Cup... and the South American Cup final should be replayed at a neutral ground.
As a measure of support by the AFA, if it really meant it, Argentine teams should also have been temporarily withdrawn from next year’s Libertadores Cup until CONMEBOL took the proper action. This would have been not only to emphasize the protest, but also to safeguard Argentine teams from such future Brazilian “tactics” which other countries may copy.
If CONMEBOL does not take drastic action, it will just foster more such incidents and invent new winning tactics — beat up opposing players at half-time, so that they will not, or cannot, come out to play the second half and take the points. CONMEBOL will give them to you!
CONMEBOL was due to take a decision last night as this column went to press.
FEDERER’S VISIT. If organizers Imagen Deportiva (Guillermo Marín) want to bring Roger Federer (and other leading tennis stars) back to Argentina, they must have made money on the deal (exact figures have not been revealed), although his visit cost around US$8 million dollars I understand, almost half of which went to him. The Swiss player could therefore not really complain if he was shoved around from one place to the other, almost with no rest during his short stay here to comply with sponsors events.
Of the two exhibition matches with Juan Martín del Potro, each player won once. Though not apparent, perhaps it was arranged, because Federer could hardly have been in the best physical condition to play.
But if the organizers do want to bring Federer back, they should organize things better. There were disorganized crowds of people milling around at each event. Poor Federer must have set a world record for shaking hands and signing autographs for fans.
The temporary stadium in Tigre — hastily built in two weeks — which was full to its 20,000 capacity on each night, had faults. An eye-witness account mentioned that on the first night, a structural fault had to be fixed, holding up the start of the match for over an hour. Also, the structure included flammable material and people did not heed the ban on smoking, nor were there enough stewards to enforce the ban. There could have been a major disaster.
There were also no proper seats with spectators sitting on the planks which had numbers. Spectators could have expected better facilities, having to pay around 1,000 pesos, or more if tickets were bought on the black market with offers reaching between 2,700 and 5,800 pesos. Some tickets must have been bought on the black market as the stadium was full on both days.
On the other hand, there was lack of lighting on the approaches to the stadium, and in some passages leading to seats and sanitary toilets. The stadium would perhaps not have been approved by the municipality, but they however helped to organize the event.
It is quite likely that Federer, who said he loved it here, will come again. An unofficial figure quoted around is that he must have been paid almost US$10 million dollars for his South American tour of Brazil (three matches), Argentina (two) and Colombia (one) which is almost as much as he earned from tournaments during the whole year, and with less expenses.
After all is said and done, Federer’s visit was, in spite of problems, a great success and he said he enjoyed it also.