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July 23, 2014
Friday, May 24, 2013

An amazing decision, that’s not very clever

By Eric Weil

The protests of Boca Juniors and River Plate this week, backed by several other clubs, at having to play their matches at 9.30pm on Sunday night were not listened to by the Argentine Football Association (AFA). Of course, they weren’t: the order came from the government. But there are so many reasons against the idea of playing so late at night that it just shows that this “government for the people” is not really for the people at all.

We all know that the government’s decision was made for only one reason — to lower the high rating of the Journalism for all programme hosted by their chief critic, Jorge Lanata. If I were a politician — which I don’t want to be — I would try to present proof to refute the charges, not just try to silence my critics which just confirms their ideas. As things are, both Lanata and the soccer clubs stand to lose ratings.

The matches could be screened again the following day under the Soccer for all programme, but at what time. as it may clash with the president’s almost-daily evening speeches broadcast on all official channels. Lanata’s programme, on the other hand, can be seen on web pages practically reproduced and commented on in leading newspapers during the week. So who wins?

The clubs will also lose revenue as a result of fewer fans being able to go to these matches, especially visiting fans to matches outside Buenos Aires. In Rosario, for example, they would have to spend the night as there would be no transport available, unless there are specially-booked buses which would get them back home in the early hours of Monday morning. The hooligans would not mind, but then they do not pay for match tickets anyway. Both clubs said they were thinking of the fans — which was a bit strange as, with many of their decisions, they do not think of their fans at all. As for the AFA, they have not been thinking of fans — who made the game popular in the first place — for a long time.

In any case, the protests were too weak. Boca Juniors and River Plate, as well as other clubs, could have refused to play. There was a rumour that Boca would do that, but Club President Daniel Angelici denied it. This could have caused AFA sanctions — monetary or a points deduction — but when workers go on strike, they are not punished immediately. Such a refusal may have changed the government’s and the AFA’s minds. Angelici also said that he hoped common sense would prevail in the end, but that was wishful thinking.

In La Plata, an official demanded that Governor Daniel Scioli guaranteed the safety of fans leaving the stadium so late at night. Of course, he cannot. In Buenos Aires, Governor Mauricio Macri decreed that soccer matches in the capital cannot be played after 10pm for 30 days — a sound measure — but to lengthen this period, it has to be ratified by his Legislature. In Santa Fe, the police advised that next week’s Libertadores Cup match between Newell's Old Boys and Boca Juniors, also scheduled for 9.30pm, should be played at 3pm.

AFA president Julio Grondona explained that the television contract with the government permits it to fix the times of matches — that is just one of the mistakes Grondona made during his long reign. But then CONMEBOL, the South American soccer body in charge of the Libertadores Cup, also shows little regard for fans. TV is useful to soccer when spreading its popularity and with the money it pays, but there must be limits. It must not be allowed to rule the game.

ARGENTINOS JUNIORS

The other big soccer news of the week was the resignation of Argentinos Juniors’ President Luis Segura, who also resigned from the AFA committee. It appears he wants nothing more to do with Grondona. The reason (apparently): a rumour was started that Segura had “sold” Argentinos Juniors’ relegation to save Independiente from going down — a pact with Grondona in exchange for a position with soccer’s international body, FIFA. Club fans started accusing and threatening him.

I do not believe this of Segura, a life-long fan and official of the club, As for Grondona... he comes from Independiente’s district, was once a president of the club and in the last few weeks it seems saving Independiente has become an urgent matter. Argentinos Juniors, meanwhile, have lost five matches in a row, while Independiente have won three in a row. Argentinos Juniors are still just outside the relegation zone, while Independiente are still in it, but the situation could change at any moment.

Argentinos Juniors also face sanctions for fireworks thrown onto the field at last Monday’s match. How did they get in? The same happened at Boca Juniors recently. The security committee made them play a match behind closed doors, but not a word has come so far from the AFA, nor the courts which wanted to investigate the club committee which seemed to be responsible.

A BADLY-POSITIONED REFEREE

Referee Sergio Pezzotta said the other day that he did not sanction what seemed to be a legitimate penalty because he was badly positioned.

Of course, he could have been badly positioned. One man covering a big field and having to watch the ball all the time, cannot possibly be in the right position all the time. That is why it is so necessary to put another referee behind each goal line with a clear view of the penalty areas — the place where there is most controversy.

On the other hand, as mentioned before, it is easier to fix games with one referee than with three! And what was the referee doing in the CONMEBOL-controlled Libertadores Cup match between Corinthians v Boca?

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