Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Welcome Home

The wanderers return at long last - tomorrow evening Independiente will host Colón Santa Fe in their newly revamped stadium, the Libertadores de América. As is customary for large construction projects the world over it's over budget and behind schedule. Initial estimates put the work at around $10m, 2 years later and that figure has risen to approx $35m - the economic crisis has been blamed for much of this, although critics of club President Comparada's regime point to shared business interests between himself and the architects. Sales of players such as Kun Aguero have helped to fund the construction.

Independiente were the first Argentine side to win the Copa Libertadores in 1964. Under the stewardship of Manuel Giúdice they adopted a more European style of play - catenaccio - crowds averaged 47,000 during this period. Their revamped stadium has also looked to the old continent for inspiration and is based on a European model, with four distinct stands and the crowd close to the pitch, similarities with grounds such as Ibrox or Sampdoria/Genoa's stadium are easy to see. Anticipation ahead of the return is building and last week fans queued for tickets, perhaps a disclaimer should be included - the stadium is a far from complete and barely resembles the website's promo material: http://www.caindependiente.com/estadio/. Capacity will be limited to around 30,000 for the game, it will eventually increase to 45,000. Financial constraints ensure that the stadium roof will for the time being be an unnecessary luxury.

Independiente are in a desperate financial state and have been losing money on two fronts, the closure of their own stadium and 'renting' other grounds for their home games (including Racing's). Half built or not they need to return home. Many new stadiums in the UK remove the club from it's community and it's roots, supporters are forced to change matchday rituals. A pre-match pint in a pub is now an overpriced lager in a plastic glass from the stadium's snack bar. The newly revamped Libertadores de América ensures that the club is back where it belongs and the fans can once again be surrounded by past glories and legends. It should be fantastic once it's finished.