March 8, 2014
Soccer for all (teams)
Earlier this month the “Soccer for Everybody” broadcasts made a major news splash over the aborted deal with television impresario Marcelo Tinelli while such aspects of the scheme as its cost to the tax-payer and the abuse of political propaganda have been controversial ever since the scheme’s inception in 2009 but this editorial would like to ask a much simpler but basic question — what has been the effect on the game of soccer as such? Recent days have seen the defeats of three of the most popular teams in Argentina — Boca Juniors, River Plate and Racing (while relegated Independiente cannot even aspire to lose in the First Division these days) — and nor are such setbacks a freak occurrence for any of them. More specific factors can always be discussed (have Boca invested too much in blasts from its past with both its coach and star overage, for instance?) but perhaps it is worth asking if, after five years, “Soccer for Everybody” has not democratized Argentine soccer for better or for worse? Elsewhere in the soccer world money talks with many called but few chosen — look at the total domination of Spanish soccer by Barcelona and Real Madrid (although a triumvirate this season with Diego Simeone’s Atlético de Madrid miraculously intruding) with other European countries hardly less elitist in favour of the richest clubs. Could it be that the more even trickle of money from “Soccer for Everybody” has transformed the traditional pyramid of Argentine soccer headed by Boca and River into a new equality where virtually any team can reach the top (as seems to be happening)?
Whether this trend would have altered with Tinelli (the vice-president of San Lorenzo, the other big traditional team) is impossible to say — any more than whether the man who has done so much to dumb down his medium would have been any less or more unbearable than the propaganda barrage of recent years. Perhaps it is not worth speculating about — if some things are too good to be true, a soccer alliance linking the government, La Cámpora militant youth grouping, Tinelli, Argentina’s seedy soccer club executives and Torneos y Competencias (long linked to the Clarín Group) was too weird to be true and never going to happen.
No doubt the World Cup now less than four months away will increasingly eclipse the local game within the passion of multitudes but, amid the frustrations of the major clubs and complaints about the mediocrity of play, soccer fans should start asking themselves whether the new equality is for better or worse.