Ariel Ortega is travelling with the squad to Rosario to face Newell's in this evening's game. He wont be playing - coach Leo Astrada has decided that given his current personal problems and state of mind playing for River today would be of little benefit to the club or the player. Ortega's lengthy battle with alcoholism has taken many twists and turns over the years and last year saw him loaned out to Nacional B side Independiente Rivadavia of Mendoza - whilst receiving treatment in Chile. He returned to River in May and the demons recently returned, prior to last weekend's defeat at home to Lanús he requested that he didn't play and even made reference to hanging-up his boots for good.
Both Leo Astrada and club president José Maria Aguilar have met with the 35 year old this week which has resulted in yet another plan of treatment being devised. This will involve daily sessions as an 'out-patient' as opposed to a stay in a residential clinic. How times and approaches to problems like this have changed. I've recently read 'Blessed' George Best's autobiography - he documents the highs and deep despair of a sublimely talented alcoholic footballer. His problems were seen as a lack of self-discipline and treated as such -a fine here, a suspension there - they were never recognised as symptoms of his addiction. His periods not playing merely gave him more time and opportunity to indulge in the booze - a cry for help which was never answered by Manchester United. ' I think at the end of the day, if a player is doing the business for the club, then the club should make an effort when things go wrong. But no one ever did come' (Blessed - George Best). On this occasion River can't be accused of abandoning Ortega, on the contrary they're working to find a solution to it. The time is fast approaching when the club's duty of care towards Ortega is matched by the player's own sense of personal responsibility and his desire dry out.
RFA loves you El Burrito, get well and get fit.