January 23, 2018
Friday, February 10, 2017

Today, the second half of soccer season should have started

By Eric Weil / Sportsworld

Argentina almost pulls off a Davis Cup miracle against Italy

Today, the second half of the soccer season should have started. Yet some clubs have problems with their players over unpaid salaries, the lower divisions are talking of a complete stoppage and nothing has been fixed up about televising the games. Meanwhile, the clubs are playing a lot of so-called “friendlies” and play in some of them has been very rough with red and yellow cards. We hope this is not an indication of the season when it begins.

Fox and Turner, now bidding together, have increased their offer slightly to three billion pesos per year. The TV companies want a contract for 15 years and would pay one billion as an advance payment. President Mauricio Macri was being pestered by clubs to pay for the previous TV contract which had until the end of 2019 to run, which the government cancelled at the end of last year.

Turner and Fox were outbid by ESPN who offer 3.2 billion pesos for a 10-year contract. Yet by far the biggest offer of 5.3 billion pesos for a five-year contract with an option for five more was made by Consor. This company is not a media company and would resell the TV rights for profit. They also guarantee payment in dollars. The clubs said they will study the offers next week, but no definite day has been set.


Former Dutch international Marco van Basten has been named technical director of FIFA and he proposes several changes in the rules of soccer. He would scrap off-side, and use a post-match penalties system in which a player has eight seconds to dribble from 25 metres out to try to beat the goalkeeper, who is allowed to advance off his line. He would also like “sin bins” by which players can be ordered off the pitch temporarily. All this is being used in field and ice hockey. But he would also put a limit on the number of times a player can play in a season.


A new system has been implemented which can evaluate what goes on in the mind of a player in a match — if he is stressed, how nervous he gets when he is supposed to shoot a penalty, how nervous the goalkeeper facing the penalty, and if he gets too excited when playing. The club’s psychologist then works with the results.

The surprise is that Atlas is the first club in the world to use this system and Atlas is in the First Division D, the Metropolitan championship’s bottom division. Atlas has also bought GPS jerseys which are worn by players of the leading clubs in the world and which serve to record the heart’s rythm and how much a player runs. If technology has anything to do with it, Atlas should soon be promoted. No doubt other clubs will begin to use this system, especially if they find it successful.


So Argentina did join the small group of countries who won the Davis Cup one year and were knocked out in the first round of the following year (thanks mostly to the absence of Juan Martín del Potro who preferred to earn still more money elsewhere than represent his country). But it was exciting all along with all matches close with the advantage going from one side to the other, especially the fifth match on Monday which decided the tie in favour of Italy.

The heroes of the tie were Argentina’s Carlos Berlocq and Italy’s Fabio Fognini. Both will play in next week’s Argentine Open. Berlocq of Argentina and Fognini played three days running in what must have amounted to over 12 hours of tennis. As the Argentine was brought in at the last moment to replace Horacio Zeballos, Fognini won the vital point in Monday’s fifth match.

One would have expected Argentina’s top-ranked player, Diego Schwartzman, to kick off the proceedings but Berlocq and Guido Pella played the two singles and lost them both on the first day. Argentina have never recovered to win a tie after being two matches down in the first day.

In Saturday’s doubles, Berlocq was the best player, while Leonard Mayer after an injury layoff, was a bit rusty. They faced Fognini and Simone Bolelli who had won the Australian Open doubles championship in 2015. It is a pity that the match, or any match, had to be decided in a tie-break.

On Sunday, a lot of wind caused problems for both Berlocq and Fogini in the singles and the match was interrupted twice by rain. There were 156 unforced errors (Berlocq had 70 and Fognini 86), but commentators Gonzaleo Bonadeo and Martín Jaite often applauded good shots when they came against unforced errors. A feature of this tie was that players often had problems keeping the lead. Also many points were argued with the umpire. In Argentina there is unfortunately no Hawk-Eye to determine whether the ball is out.

In Monday’s vital match, some Argentine fans behaved badly by continually swearing at Fogini who won many points with drop shots just over the net against Guido Pella who had not played well on Friday. He did better, but it was not good enough.

Strange that on Monday entry was free and the Parque Sarmiento stadium was packed with a maximum 7,200 while on Friday entry was poor and on Saturday there were 6,000. Fewer tickets were probably sold than at last year’s Davis Cup ties at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club.


After losing the first two sets and his service in the third, Canada’s 17-year-old Denis Shapovalov hit the ball into the air and hit the umpire in the face. The match was given to Britain’s Kyle Edmund for the 3-2 series win. Yet the Canadian may not have hit the umpire on purpose.

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