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October 25, 2014
Friday, March 21, 2014

Who will win this time?

Boca Juniors team captain Juan Román Riquelme.
By Eric Weil / Sportsworld

Final championship close again

Last year's Initial Tournament of the local 2013/4 soccer season was closer than ever and soccer journalists strangely said San Lorenzo hardly deserved the title because they got the lowest ever points total since one-round short tournaments began in 1991. This does not make sense because if a club wins a tournament with a low points total, it merely means that it was a close fight. There may not have been any good teams last year, but if there had been and they beat each other, the points total would still have been low.

With the Final Tournament's halfway stage almost reached, it looks as if it will be a repeat performance. One reason why it is close, and usually would be, is that the strongest teams qualified for the Libertadores Cup and by doing so, their league form suffers just because they cannot handle both competitions at the same time all the way through. So far, 72% of games have been drawn or decided by one goals (draws 32%, one goal differences 40%) which is not far different from the Initial Tournament and shows how close most games are.

COLÓN

This Santa Fe club is the surprise team at the top although it cannot be believed that they will stay there. A club with debts to current and past players and elsewhere, was therefore not allowed to sign new players. There are almost 30 former players claiming money owed and the former committee even owed the club's bar 90,000 pesos while there are no papers regarding contracts to be found. The recently elected club committee is in the process of expelling former committee members from the club. But then every new club committee finds fault with the previous one and so it will always be so that they have somebody to blame.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel apart from the present good soccer campaign which has presently moved them out of the relegation zone. They have managed to pay a debt to Mexican club Atlante for which FIFA fined them with the loss of six points in the Initial Tournament. The return of these points would move them further away from relegation.

ALL BOYS, another small club, also started the season with tremendous debts, owing some players up to seven months salary, so much so that club president Horacio Bugallo told them that anybody who wants to leave can do so and the club would continue playing only with younger players who earn below 15,000 pesos a month. Actually, when players are not paid for such a long time, they become free agents, but as far as we heard, none left. This column mentioned that this was a formula for relegation, yet they are presently fifth in the table and two places above relegation.

How is it that teams with less experienced (and badly paid) players are outplaying bigger clubs with so-called stars? They have less pressure and know their limitations. Any point is welcome.

BOCA JUNIORS

The Boca "cabaret" continues. The latest player who wants to leave is striker Juan Martínez — partly because he gets no first team games, but also he feels uncomfortable and also has a poor relationship with team captain Juan Román Riquelme (like several others). I have a list of 20 other players who happily left the club and most were more successful at other clubs. Coach Carlos Bianchi makes mistakes in picking players and in often making changes during games. The committee also has a poor record.

Two strange things. A few days ago, the players complained that a training session had lasted all of 60 minutes (?).The club is opening a soccer academy in New York with the idea of finding new stars. But not many of their good juniors get into the first team for which they buy outside and the youngsters then move to other clubs.

RIVER PLATE continue making lots of team changes, but still do not seem to get a successful team together. Their wish is to get veteran stars to return, like striker Fernando Cavenaghi to get more goals as before, but, as usual, he has not been very successful as expected. Now they are also want former internationals Aimar and Saviola to return. Do they want to strengthen their veterans team?

RACING CLUB is another of the big clubs in trouble — propping up the table with only four points out of a possible 24. Reinaldo Merlo, the coach who won their last title with them 13 years ago, may leave at the week-end, but as we said about Boca Juniors recently, they are not so bad against rivals, having lost three of their six defeats by only one goal and the others not heavily.

But Merlo, it seems, does not get on too well with the players — although a couple of wins would fix that — and the suspicion is that in two seasons, the players have made four coaches leave.

In any case, Racing Club have the tradition of engaging most coaches. They sign them like players and think they are 100% responsible. When Racing won the title in 2001 under Merlo, they built him a statue! Now what?

PROTEST

Five clubs — Boca Juniors, River Plate, All Boys, San Lorenzo and Argentinos Juniors asked the Argentine Football Association to help them to avoid further sanctions from the government sports security committee for trouble inside their stadiums and complain that club officials always take the blame. But of course club officials are to blame because they have not put trouble makers (hooligans) on the list of people banned from entering stadiums. And if they are club members, they can easily expel them ... but they don’t!

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