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July 23, 2014
Saturday, February 8, 2014

Soccer for all, but not from all

According to Jorge Luis Borges, nothing is simpler than soccer, “11 men chasing after a ball against 11 others,” but just try presenting the current muddle over the “Soccer for Everybody” broadcasts as simple. As occurs with most Kirchnerite policies, this year’s plan to revamp the system is both rational (a bid to put an initially good idea back on track), arbitrary and also enigmatically murky — the weird pact between the government, the television powerhouse Marcelo Tinelli, the football association executives and Torneos y Competencias (the firm in charge of the television production for more than two decades) which has been falling apart in the last couple of days.

The birth of “Soccer for Everybody” in 2009 was undoubtedly positive with millions of beneficiaries (especially the humble fans of the nation’s most popular sport emancipated from the costly “pay per view” barrier they could not afford) and very few losers, largely those behind this shady deal (headed by the Clarín Group, which used soccer broadcasting rights to dominate the cable television market). Yet the CFK administration managed to turn this excellent idea into a white elephant. The state funds pumped into this scheme grew exponentially due to an uncritical acceptance of the demands of corrupt soccer club bosses and their hooligan allies while the insistence on a crude government propaganda inexplicably blocked out any private advertising to relieve the burden on the Treasury (at least these two aspects seem to be undergoing reform). This abusive coverage crowded out many other worthwhile programmes from state television while giving undeserved fame to the most unsavoury propagandists (often turncoats from the Clarín era). Now knee-jerk resistance from the La Cámpora militant youth grouping seems to have thrown the overhaul into confusion, at the very least evicting Tinelli — which at least puts him in his place from his tweated claims to be the new overlord of the sport (as well as resolving his incompatibility as the vice-president of San Lorenzo).

Among those who will have to face this muddle is the brand-new Sports Secretary Carlos Mauricio “Camau” Espínola. While government changes are often disgraced officials replaced by somebody who has yet to establish his credentials, this case is different — the former Corrientes mayor and Olympic yachting champion fully deserves this chance but his predecessor Claudio Morresi (a former soccer player with a missing brother who managed the post ably for almost a decade) did not deserve to go. At least Camau will have an early chance to show his mettle.

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