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October 20, 2017
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Angelici’s CONMEBOL ban puts AFA in an uncomfortable spot

Boca Juniors President Daniel Angelici, photographed during a press conference back in February.
Boca Juniors President Daniel Angelici, photographed during a press conference back in February.
Boca Juniors President Daniel Angelici, photographed during a press conference back in February.
By Dan Edwards
For the Herald

Ever-controversial Boca director has failed ‘suitability test’ to join body’s executive committee

As much as the name of CONMEBOL has been dragged through the mud in recent years, it still appears that there is one name that remains beyond the pale for South America’s soccer governing body.

Devastated as it has been by the charges of bribery, corruption and other criminal activities that have implicated the likes of the late vice-president Julio Grondona, ex-chief Nicolás Leoz and now Gorka Villar, the son of long-time Spanish soccer supremo Ángel María accused of extortion during his time with the organisation, Boca Juniors president Daniel Angelici is still considered a step too far.

The ever-controversial director, a former bingo hall magnate and long believed to be Mauricio Macri’s judicial manipulator inside the Buenos Aires law courts, failed a “suitability test” he had to pass to join CONMEBOL’s executive committee, an embarrassment that caused no lack of Schadenfreude among his, not inconsiderable list of detractors both inside and outside Argentine soccer. Imperiously dismissive of anyone’s capacity to contradict or deny him what he wishes, Angelici declined to answer the questions sent to him over possible conflicts of interests in his candidacy, or potential legal problems that could arise. One cannot help but feel that it was with no little glee that those in charge threw out his application.

“In the CONMEBOL investigation,” wrote Brazilian journalist Rodrigo Mattos, who revealed the bombshell, “(Angelici) is accused of trafficking influence over referees. He acts as the judicial operator of President Mauricio Macri, who is Boca’s ex-president and an ally. He also owns bingo halls.”

To that rather shady record one could also add the wiretaps released at the start of 2017 which exposed Angelici pressuring Argentine Football Association (AFA) officials to change the referee for a key Boca Juniors clash, as well as the close cooperation of La 12 leaders Mauro Martín and Rafael Di Zeo, both of whom have been formally charged or convicted on homicide allegations, with the current Xeneize administration.

Hardly unique

As distasteful as Angelici’s background appears, however, it is hardly unique in the world of Argentine or South American soccer. What perhaps has influenced more strongly this unprecedented veto, which could put in doubt his role as AFA vice-president and even compromise the very top of the organisation itself, is his vocal and vicious opposition to CONMEBOL.

The bad blood between the pair began all the way back in 2015 with Boca’s infamous elimination from the Copa Libertadores after fans attacked River Plate players with pepper spray at the Bombonera. Even now Angelici continues to rage against the decision.

“With Julio (Grondona) the pepper spray game would have been finished,” he said on one occasion. “Those are the good things Julio had, the weight inside CONMEBOL and FIFA.”

To a CONMEBOL doing everything possible to forget Grondona’s corrupt effective rule over the continent, those type of statements are unlikely to fall on grateful ears.

Ever since that scandal the Boca man has become an implacable enemy of the governing body. Angelici spearheaded an elite group of clubs, dubbed the South American League, who battled CONMEBOL for a rise in prize money in continental competitions that bore fruits in 2016 with a hike of 70 percent. This year’s change in the Libertadores format, which gave extra spots to Brazilian teams, further fuelled the rift. Alejandro Domínguez, the Paraguayan who took over from the disgraced Leóz in the wake of the scandal, has found himself on the end of Angelici’s wrath: “He looks like an arrogant man. He did not respect Argentina.”

Another unwelcome

dilemma

If the ruling stands — Angelici is certain to use every legal recourse to change his fate — it will put the AFA in another unwelcome dilemma. To have no Argentine representative on the board of South America’s highest soccer authority would be inadmissible, akin to leaving the nation as a continental pariahs. It would also remove legitimacy from the organisation now presided by Claudio “Chiqui” Tapia and encourage rebellion from those already discontent with the new administration. Racing Club president Víctor Blanco, an AFA vice, and River’s Rodolfo D’Onofrio have already shown signs of dissent, and a defeat over Angelici would only strengthen their hand in Viamonte’s endless internal wranglings.

No wonder, then, that the AFA came out to support its candidate almost immediately after the (still unofficial) news broke. “The AFA backs and will accompany Angelici in whatever procedures he decides to initiate in order to revert the situation,” a statement explained last week. If his appeals fall on deaf ears inside CONMEBOL he could even end up taking his case all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the entity based in Switzerland that is established as an effective Supreme Court for soccer matters.

Should Angelici fall short in his attempts to sidle into CONMEBOL, the effect on the AFA promises to be brutal. More than a few observers see the Boca chief and his Independiente counterpart, Hugo Moyano, as the real chiefs in Viamonte, with Tapia a simple figurehead. It was no secret that Domínguez and his allies would take a dim view of Angelici’s candidacy but those in charge persisted all the same, leaving both Angelici and the current administration in general in a very awkward position that is much their own making.

 

@danedwardsgoal

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