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September 1, 2014
Friday, February 14, 2014

Referees making ‘mistakes’ again

Federico Insúa pictured after his transfer to Independiente with legend Ricardo Bochini.
By Eric Weil / Sportsworld

31 players signed and another 71 shipped out

Soccer’s local Final Champio-nship began last Friday and as mentioned in last week’s SPORTSWORLD column, it was the same old story. There were no penalties last week-end until the final game on Monday, but there should have been at least three, specially one for Newell’s Old Boys which robbed them of a possible victory against Boca Juniors in the 0-0 match. All 40,000 people in the stadium, plus television viewers must have seen the penalty, except for referee Mauro Vigliano. Or was he looking the other way and Boca Juniors is this year’s AFA favoured candidate to win a title?

Boca’s coach Carlos Bianchi was also looking the other way instead at his match as many coaches are in the habit of doing. He said Boca should have won, although they did improve, having returned to the old 4-4-2 lineup instead of the one they felt uncomfortable with during the summer. River Plate was also favoured by a referee not giving Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata a penalty.

Fans of visiting teams are still not allowed to enter stadiums. And yet there were 3,000 Independiente fans at Brown (Adrogué) and you could also find away team fans at A Division stadiums, as home clubs make good business charging them more for their tickets. Hooligan fans made their presence felt, but will there be a change in how the authorities deal with them?

Two of three Colón hooligans on the run (after committing a murder four months ago) were caught while police detained Hernán García, one of the River Plate gang leaders, for letting gang members into the stadium without paying, which has always been the case. Their problem is that the new administration is giving the hooligans fewer tickets to distribute, but they should definitely not give them any tickets at all. The question is however, how long will these hooligans be detained until a judge frees them?

31 in, 71 out

During the transfer window which closed last Friday, local clubs had the option of signing two new players, or in a few instances three if they had a player seriously injured. Three clubs did not take the option — Atlético Rafaela (who also did not move any out) Belgrano Córdoba, Vélez Sarsfield — while All Boys and Colón Santa Fe signed some, but could not field them because they owed their squad money. But surely they were not the only clubs owing?

The total number of players signed by the 20 clubs reached 31, including a few on loan who returned to their clubs, while 71 had their contracts ended, were sold or loaned out. This should mean that there are fewer players with professional contracts (40) and smaller squads, but while there are similar figures after every championship, it still leaves clubs with too many pros on the payroll — and this is one reason for their continual debts — although some of whom are never likely to play in the first team. Clubs tend to top up their squads with players from their junior divisions whom they are obliged to give a contract when they become 18 or allow them to leave on a free transfer.

Twenty players went to other countries and 15 came back, but the Americas were mostly involved and not so much money changed hands. Clubs tended to rely on big sales to Europe to make ends meet, but this is no longer the case, at least not for now.

When the transfer window closed, it looked as if Initial Championship winners San Lorenzo had made the best deals by signing striker Nicolás Blandi and last year’s top scorer Mauro Matos, while holding on to Angel Correa in spite of some offers from abroad. San Lorenzo surprisingly have made a poor start, losing their opening game to relegation strugglers Olimpia and then also losing their opening Libertadores Cup match, both without scoring with what looked like a fearsome attack. But San Lorenzo have new coach Edgardo Bauza and they will have to get used to his different playing style. Usually the most successful teams, such as Vélez Sarsfield, are those under the same coach for years, but they have just lost Ricardo Gareca after five successful years. However, with his assistant and former player, José Flores, having taken over things may not change so much.

Meanwhile, the most important player to return from abroad was international midfielder Ever Banega who Boca Juniors did not want and Newell’s Old Boys snapped him. Banega thought that playing here would give him a better chance of going to the World Cup this year, while Newell’s expect him to help to continue their successful season.

Problem clubs

All Boys, Colón and Independiente began the season with the biggest financial problems, but it leaves some questions for the Argentine Football Association (AFA). Any new signings made by Colón and All Boys were not accepted by the AFA because they owed money to their players. Owed up to seven months of wages, some players left, considering themselves released from their contracts. But Independiente (whose employees are on strike for non-payment) meanwhile, signed Insúa for close to a million dollars to increase their huge debt. The latest blow is that former player Matías Defederico is suing for 2 million pesos owed.

One question — why did the AFA accept Insúa’s transfer and not Colón’s?

Last year, FIFA, the game’s international federation, ordered the AFA to deduct six points each from Colón and Independiente for not paying foreign clubs for players bought earlier. The points were immediately deducted from Colón which plunged them into the relegation zone. No points were deducted from Independiente (which could spoil their promotion chances) although the club says it will not be able to pay unless they can sell a player well. The transfer window is now closed both here and in Europe.

Another question: why is the AFA breaking rules to favour Independiente (of whom AFA chief Julio Grondona is a former president) over Colón?

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