March 9, 2014
272 goals during 2014
For the Herald
Two prosecutors, one judge, on tight ropes
New Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich, who seems to have taken over the presidency, will hardly score 272 goals during 2014, nor will anybody else, but he says that he has that number of projects to accomplish this year. We hope that they include getting rid of soccer hooligans, but he has not announced this yet. He did however announce modifications in the “Free Soccer For All” television contract signed with the Argentine Football Association (AFA) in 2009 which cost the government 600 million pesos in the first year and now more than double (1.4 billion pesos).
Although originally it was mentioned that Marcelo Tinelli’s production company, Ideas del Sur, might take it over, the more sensible project now is to hold an auction to produce the programme which would do away with the suspicions that present producers La Corte get all the cake because they are close to the government. Also, Capitanich proposes to open the programme to private advertising and not just government propaganda and one truck manufacturer. That way, the government would make some money from what has so far been a complete loss financially —something which had been criticized in this column.
AFA chief Julio Grondona has also been to see Capitanich and although there has been no news on the meeting, Grondona probably expounded his own idea of forming AFATV which would presumably have to enter the auction to broadcast soccer matches as the AFA-Government 10-year TV contract is still valid. When it began, the government offered much more than Torneos y Competencias did previously and the AFA will find that no company can offer as much as the government without making a loss. At the same time, the government’s offer which was meant to assist debt-riddled clubs was no help at all as club debts increased. This is another matter that Capitanich wants to look into as the AFA did not do anything about it.
Last March, prosecutor José María Campagnoli managed to put 11 persons on trial in the long-standing case of threats against referee Sergio Pezzotta at half-time of the match at River Plate during which the home team was relegated. The 11 included, apart from hooligans, a former employee, the club’s security chief, two club officials and a policeman. There has been no trial yet. In September, he managed to add nine more hooligans who are now awaiting trial. Now Campagnoli has been investigating the River Plate ticket scandal in which match tickets meant for members went on the black market through the hooligan gang and which also involved members of the club’s management. He was getting too close to power and was suspended by what looked very much like government orders.
Last year, there was a similar ticket fraud at Boca Juniors with tickets for members going to the hooligan gang for black market sale and involving employees and club officials. Club president Daniel Angelici became frightened and tried to have the investigating judge Manuel de Campos removed. Perhaps he was successful. There is no further news on the case.
The courts in Santa Fe has been more successful — or perhaps it receives less interference from the provincial government.
In Rosario, it sent Newell's Old Boys gang leaders to prison. There are orders to capture three Colón gang leaders on the run while former Colón president Germán Lerche could face sanctions for evading taxes and trying to get a hooligan on the run from doing time in jail.
Tickets going to hooligans and their obvious connections with the former club management are also being actively investigated.
Eduardo López, who was president of Newell’s Old Boys for 14 years with the help of the hooligan gang, was finally ordered to testify in court for fraudulent administration, but the case could be annulled by the statute of limitations by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the club must pay a debt of 70 million pesos that was lef behind from Lopez’s administration in this fiscal year.
Soccer clubs continue to avoid collaborating with the courts in cases involving their hooligan gangs. This has been evident all along in the cases mentioned above, but there are plenty of other examples.
San Lorenzo player Juan Mer-cier was attacked by a club hooligan and although he informed the club, it took a long time before the attack was duly reported to the police.
While fans of visiting teams are not allowed at matches, San Lorenzo hooligans gave tickets to the Boca Juniors hooligans headed by Rafael Di Zeo, which is the group not backed by the club — not what they call the “official gang.” The 300 tickets were handed over by a San Lorenzo employee who, when investigated, implicated three other employees of the club and said he was following orders. When Judge De Campo finally investigated club authorities, he was told that the police authorized the handing over of tickets (which is doubtful). At the match Di Zeo’s gang, which had been denied match tickets from their own club, fought with the so-called “official gang” which left two dead.
In Lanús, a gang leader was given a life sentence following an internal fight — over money, as always — which left one dead and five injured. Also under investigation is former president Nicolás Russo for giving false testimony. But club officials never seem to get jail sentences. They always say they do not know their hooligan gang, which is not true.
Huracán is one of the clubs where players are frequently attacked by their hooligan gang because they think the players are not playing well enough, but the club rarely reports the attack to the police which has resulted in some players wanting to leave. If the police are informed, they send a squad car to training sessions for a few days and then leave which leaves the hooligans free to do their “stuff” again.