Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Peace in Our Time?

The colours, the endless noise, the banners and the bouncing. These are just some of the aspects which make football in Argentina different from the sanistised and commercial version of the game we're forced to endure in the UK. Anyone who watched the unintentionally hilarious Danny Dyer on his Real Football Factories International exposes can see why being a spectator at these games is such an exhilerating experience.

The problem is that on fairly regular basis some fans turn their passion into violence. Most clubs have at least one faction of Barras Bravas (BB), deaths, games abandoned and players intimidated have all helped cement their fearsome reputations. In the UK the Government claims it has sucessfully cured the English Disease. By using methods such as all seater stadiums, extortionately priced tickets and CCTV cameras at our every turn; our grounds are a lot safer (and many would say less atmospheric) than they were 25 years ago.

Changing the dynamic of the football going public isn't an option in Argentina. For all the negatives many of the BB are an integral part of their club and community. Self-policing is the latest method to be tried by the authorities in an effort to bring them into line. Earlier this month an anti-violence summit was attended by more than 160 BB members representing numerous clubs and gangs (Boca, River, San Lorenzo & Velez did not go). Contrary to what you may have feared the meeting passed off peacefully , quite an achievement given the records of those attending. Central to the whole plan is the effort to clean up the gangs with ID schemes and a zero tolerance policy to those who have commited offences. A ten point manifesto has been drawn-up including some of the following:

Preventing fireworks being smuggled into grounds and assisting with the confiscation of those that have.

Informing the authorities of any pre-planned fights, where, when who etc.

Not exhibiting 'trophies of war' at matches. I guess this means not burning other teams flags, shirts etc which have been captured.

Giving the ball back when it goes into the stands.

It's also the responsibility of the BB's to make fans aware that getting a match abandoned will not be tolerated!!!

The press are sceptical about the effectiveness of this new approach and are taking a wait and see attitude. For now though, security within stadia will remain the responsibility of the BB's. If the violence can be reigned in whilst preserving the fantastic atmosphere Argentine domestic football will have found a winning formula.

Hasta Luego!

Check out The Real Football Factories International - Argentina

Stills of various fans set to a rather nice song:

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Ortega Joins Indpendiente...................

Rivadavia of Mendoza. Never let it be said that I don't keep you upto date with a story (this is only 5 days late). This time last week it seemed that Ariel Ortega's only playing exit out of River Plate would be to join Al Ain in the UAE. How keen El Burrito was on this move is difficult to say; although if he found it tough to settle in Istanbul I imagine it wouldn't be easier in the Gulf. Some of the Argentine press described it as an 'Oasis in the desert' I couldn't disagree more.

Anyway that was days ago, step up Independiente Rivadavia from the foothills of the Andes who play in Nacional B - the second tier of Argentine football. Initially the approach was rejected by River but thanks to some top level maneuvering the move finally went through. Ortega is thought to be getting $100,000 per month for the 10 month contract, whilst River will get $500,000. One clause in the contract ensures that El Burrito must restart his treatment for alcoholism. This will take place for 2 days a week at a clinic in Santiago, to make this possible his new club must provide him with a private plane. What his new team mates will think of this is not known at present. Ortega visited this clinic last year - so how successful it was is open to debate given his recent antics. 'The most important thing for me is to play football, it's not important where' which sounds like a big thumbs up for Independiente.

This could be his ideal move with a view to bowing out of the game gracefully. Away from bustling Buenos Aires to the clear mountain air of Mendoza. I just hope he keeps away from the vineyards or it may all end in tears.

Hasta Luego!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Your Papers, Please

Argentina as the cliche goes is a nation of immigrants, they came from Spain (particulary Galicia and the Basque Country), from Italy, and from Wales, from England and Eastern Europe. Using this melting pot of backgrounds and nationalities looked like the ideal smokescreen to help export footballers to Europe and grease a few palms on the way. Due to the limits on non-European Union players at Italian clubs the scam helped Argentines to trace their family trees and 'discover' long lost great-grandparents. It what appears to be a major flaw many of the relatives were allegedly from the same Italian village (although it could be Italy's equivalent to Ashington which was home to the Charltons and Milburns!!!!).

Enter Judge Norbato Oyarbide who started investigating some bizarre signatures that appeared on Italian passports issued from their consul in Buenos Aires. The operation which was started on the 11th July involved police raids across the city when 24 suspects were detained. Judge Oyarbide suspects that as many as 150 players could be involved in the scandal which could also include other European nations. The last major incident of this nature was in 2000 when players such as Juan Sebastian Veron, Roberto Ayala and Esteban Fuertes were involved.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Let the Games Begin

Far be it from me to question the tactical know-how and knowledge of a World Cup winner, however I was a little surprised when Sergio Batista, the Olympic teams' coach admitted he'd been visiting an astrologer. Thoughts of Eileen Drury, Glen Hoddle and controversial quotes to the media crossed my mind. However if 'El Checo' and his boys bring home the gold who'll care? In an engaging interview with the sports daily Ole the chain smoking 45 year old revealed that he wouldn't stop puffing anytime soon (Marlboro's are his faves) and under no circumstances would he be shaving off his beard. The cigarettes seem to have aided his confident outlook and his belief in his own ability, win or lose he'll return to Argentina to ride out the storm.

Would he be prepared to leave out Messi, or Riquelme? The team comes first, if it has to be done it will be. In the case of Messi this may be taken out of his hands given the protestations of Barcelona and the situation seems to be having an unstabilising effect on the player. There's nothing quite like putting additional pressure on the lad though, he sees Messi as a leader in the same vein as Maradona was in '86. What's more when asked who is currently the best player in the world he responded: Messi, followed by Kaka, Robinho and then Riquelme. Did he forget Frank Lampard Junior??????!!!!!!!!!!

GOLD - always believe.

Hasta luego

Monday, 4 August 2008

Ortega & River Plate - No More?!

Ariel Ortega, the player once labelled the 'the new Maradona' (which Argentine prodigy isn't?) is competing well with Diego when it comes to going off the rails. In a display of driving reminiscent of Tony Adams prior to his resurection 'El Burrito' gave the world a lesson in how not to exit a petrol station. After what Argentine TV described as a night of excess and pursued by a collection of cameras he proceeded to reverse his BMW into a petrol pump. He failed to turn-up for training the next day.

It's the latest incident in his long standing battle with the demon drink and could well turn out to be his route out of River Plate. Diego Simeone, the coach has left him out of the team for their final pre-season friendly and by all accounts would like to go further. However it's seems as though the board are willing to give him one more chance providing he seeks treatment either in Argentina or elsewhere. The other option is to cut their losses and sell the player, last week an offer came in from Al-mir in the UAE to take the player on loan for 10 months - earning him $1.7m. If the UAE is a 'dry' country he could do worse???!!!!

One thing is clear - he will not play for any other club in Argentina, for El Burrito it's only River.

Hasta Luego