Saturday, 28 February 2009

Cometh the Hour

Political commentators and bloggers on Capitol Hill talk of the 'Fabbiani effect' when describing the change of mood in the US after Barack Obama's election victory. Cristian Fabbiani's reputation is growing with every game he plays for River Plate and his arrival from Newell's in the close season has gone a long way towards lifting the gloom that surrounded el Monumental. In a transfer saga that rivalled Beckham's move from Man Utd to Real Madrid in 2003 for tedium Velez were also in the running to sign the man they call El Ogro. After much to-ing and fro-ing River finally got their man at the 12th hour, leading Velez to claim that the whole affair showed a lack of respect.

After making his debut in the Copa Libertadores against Nacional of Paraguay where his impact was immediate his stock has grown along with his cult status (not his waistline!) amongst the fans. Many River supporters are already hailing the arrival of a new idol. A constant source of speculation and comment in the Argentine press concerns Fabbiani's physical state and in particular his weight. Usually hovering around the 100 kilo mark in a recent interview with Olé he announced that it was down to 97kg although in typical Ogro style he commented that 'they've always talked about my physical state. It doesn't bother me, I'm used to it'. To assume he's just a battering ram is to do him a great disservice, look at the goal he set-up for Radamel Falcao against Banfield:

A constant source of soundbites and quotes Fabbiani will also have endeared himself to the fans by slating eternal rivals Boca and in his eyes their less than savoury ways of winning matches. A somewhat dumbfounded coach Carlos Ischia responded that 'Boca win because they are the best'.

So we're all set - with el Ogro on the scene we should have some goals, some laughs and even some controversy.

The winner against Rosario Central:

Hasta luego!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Independiente v Racing: Part 2

The thinking behind this blog was never to provide upto the minute news on everything Argentina/football. Although having posted a lengthy piece prior to yesterday's clasicó de Avellaneda, I thought I'd write a few lines on the aftermath. Independiente won 2-0 and it was as expected a case of loser gets booted. Juan Manuel Llop 'parted company' with Racing after 34 games and a total of 8 wins. The next candidates through the revolving door could be one of Simeone (returning), Basile or Pekerman amongst others. Simeone seems to be the fave at time of writing. So for now at least Santoro will continue to be the oldest coach in the Primera.

Hasta luego!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Independiente v Racing

If possible I'd back both Independiente and Racing to lose in this weekend's looming clásico de Avellaneda. To say these two giants are out of form doesn't really describe their current predicaments and they can't buy a win (no pun intended). Admittedly we're only 2 games old but the Apertura finished with a whimper and combined Clasura stats are:

P: 4, W :0, L: 3, D: 1 For: 2, Against: 10.

The league's oldest manager 66 year old Pepé Santoro of Independiente could be this campaign's first casualty. Following the 3-0 mauling at San Martín courtesy of Cristián Canío hat-trick Santoro has decided to stay on for at least one more game, Saturday's clash with Racing. In bullish mood he sees the game as the great opportunity to get their season back on track 'the game against Racing is something different, something special to change our current situation and the players know this'. A negative result against la Academia could see him walk or get pushed. The gravity of the situation has been highlighted by club president Julio Comparada who's even had to interrupt his holidays to return to the club insisting 'we're all in this together' etc; the usual phrases before a coach gets the boot. Security has been beefed up around the team in light of recent encounters with the Barras - a banner at the club's Villa Dominico training ground pulled no punches: 'Comparada+Board+Santoro+Players. Go! Stop robbing us!'.

One point worse off, and in a permanent state of turmoil are Racing who were thumped 4-1 at home to Huracán last Friday night. In a similar fashion to the situation at Independiente the future of coach Llop will be decided by what happens on Saturday. Possible replacements include Diego Simeone should things continue to go downhill in the derby. According to president Rodolfo Molina relations between Llop and the players aren't the best, perhaps 'he's lost the dressing room' as the pundits say. One thing is certain whenever this problem is alluded to it's not the players who get kicked out. Boca Juniors misfit Lucas Castromán got his first run out against Huracán but whether or not he'll be in the team on Saturday is in the balance. Maxi Moralez was able to win a match with one piece of skill. Hard luck for Racing he's now at Velez.

Currently Avellaneda's most in form team are Arsenal, who are also one of the worst supported clubs in the league. Can't they all go and watch them instead???!!

Racing 1 - 4 Huracán

San Martin 3- 0 Independiente

Hasta luego!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Win Football Matches.............Or Else!

Everyone has an opinion. In years gone by those opinions were confined to the pub, the classroom or the factory, now thanks to the wonders of modern technology the whole world is exposed to them. Real Football Argentina is one such example. One outlet for the frustrated footy fan is the radio football phone-in, the BBC's football commentator Alan Green fronts one such programme. No subject is guaranteed to make the Ulsterman's blood boil more than 'booing'; Alan just can't understand it, why would any fan boo anything.

What then would the BBC's voice of football make of goings on at Independiente's training ground this week where things got a little upfront and personal. Avellaneda's other struggling club had a rough Apertura finishing a lowly 18th and kicked off last weekend with a 0-0 against Velez. All this has been too much to bear for some fans and patience is wearing thin. The Barras turned-up at training to offer some less than friendly words of encouragement/threats. Led by Pablo 'Bebote' Alvarez they not only demanded an improvement on last year's woeful display but also wanted travel expenses! Coach Miguel Santoro was less than impressed with the visit lamenting that 'these things aren't good for football' and that the whole episode wont help matters on the pitch.

So how did the 'boys' evade security at Los Rojos training ground? No evading required - as socios they walked straight in. Given the close working relationships between barras bravas and club regimes in Argentina maybe this visit was officially sanctioned. Quite how intimidation will motivate the team is anyone's guess. Training today has taken place behind closed doors.

Hasta luego!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

What Price Passion

I'm unable to confirm but I imagine AFA President Julio Grondona doesn't have to pay to get into football matches. If he or any of his associates had to open their wallets in order to see a game they may have thought twice before increasing prices by a hefty 20% for this year's Clasura campaign (following on from 2008's 60% hike). But stop.............the FA has increased the prices? As alien as it sounds to us in the UK the AFA sets the prices for the Primera A, Primera B Nacional and Primeras B, C & D. The AFA dictates the prices for the 'populares' areas of the ground whilst the clubs have jurisdiction over the 'plateas'. So current prices are now 30 pesos (approx £6) which doesn't sound like much compared to watching Chelsea or other UK teams but factor-in the low wages and economic situation and for some fans it may prove an increase too far.

Grondona makes a valid point whan stating that football is the only entertaiment subjected to VAT. Getting the Government to reverse this at the moment could well prove difficult even if el presidente has the will. Comments I have seen on message boards take the view that these increases would be slightly more palatable if some of this cash was put towards security or stadium rennovation - we'll wait and see. Stadium upgrades in England were made possible in the most part because of the Sky TV deal - Argentine clubs are bound by their current contract until 2014.

It shouldn't be forgotten that many of the fans are socios or receive free entry thanks to their 'work' with the barras but the increase cannot fail to impact on the more casual fan.

Hasta luego!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Older and Wiser

The Clasura kick-off is fast approaching, preceded by the usual transfer market mayhem. Whilst those of us who live in Old World are used to seeing the latest starlets arrive to ply their trade, the coming campaign in Argentina will boast 86 players aged 30 or over. Many of these aren't merely reserves or make weights looking for an easy end to their careers but key players and lynchpins: Martin Palermo 35 (Boca Juniors), Juan Veron 33 (Estudiantes), Rodolfo Arruabarrena 33 (Tigre), Marcelo Gallardo 33 (River Plate) and not forgetting Juan Roman Riquelme 30 (Boca Juniors).

From a positive perspective this phenomenon can be seen as a victory for modern sports medicine, training regimes and nutrition. It also demonstrates how a player who is dedicated and takes care of himself can still be at the top in his third decade; aswell as giving fans the chance to see these stars in the flesh. Less positive is the timeless truth that any capable Argentine footballer in his 20's will more often than not be tempted abroad, Riquelme's return to Boca was a rare exception. As a result ever younger and ever older players are required to fill the gaps.

I admire the attachment many of these players feel with clubs that nurtured them, Veron's return to Estudiantes, Ortega's with River Plate etc. Napoli's new signing Jesus Datolo is yet to kick a ball for them but he's already made public his desire to one day return to Boca Juniors.

Hasta luego!