Thursday, 26 March 2009

World Cup (Qualifying) Fever

pssst..........Riquelme aint playing!!!!!

Diego fever seems to be gripping Buenos Aires. Despite the anti-Maradona pro-Riquelme stance taken by some Boca fans there wont be many spare seats this Saturday for his first competitive game in charge against Venezuela. The term one-sided could almost have been invented for this game, in 9 World Cup Qualifiers Venezuela haven't managed even one draw and have scored a mere 6 goals against Argentina's 30.

The fans are expecting goals and entertainment, the rumoured forward line of Messi-Aguero-Tevez should be more than sufficient to kick-start the party in the stands (get ready for a dull scoreless draw). A search on Argentine auction site shows cheaper tickets being traded for 6 or 7 times face value. For many this game will be an 'I was there' fixture as the serious business of World Cup qualification resumes at home and then at the strength sapping altitude of La Paz. As one fan explained in La Nacion 'With Diego everything will be better, our rivals will see us differently'.

Hasta luego!

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Please Release Me

In footballing parlance the goalkeeper is widely assumed to be the crazy and some may say mad member of the 11. 'Mad' could be a word used to describe the mood of ostracised Boca Juniors goalkeeper Mauricio Caranta. Appearing on the football show Gol de Medianoche earlier this week the 30 year old alluded to a secret pact existing between leading clubs not to sign him and rescue him from the Argentine equivalent of being sent to Coventry.

For those not familar with the the saga the first rumblings of any issues came last October when Caranta announced to the media that he had a delicate family problem linked to his daughter. He refused to reveal the nature of the problem but added that coach Ischia 'understands and supports me'. Ischia's support and understanding lasted for approximatley 3 months and came to a grinding halt at Boca's summer training camp when the 'keeper wasn't allowed to enter the team hotel and told that he was no longer wanted. On-line allegations that Caranta had an affair with Ischia's daughter have also surfaced - something that he categorically denies and are unfounded but this has no doubt added to the intrigue. Fast forward to this month which has seen the player win a court case effectively allowing him to be transferred provided a club comes looking for him and not the other way around. Confused? Lanús could well be in the frame to sign him if things go to plan although the AFA and president Julio Grondona may well be called upon to aid negotiations between the two clubs.

To the untrained eye the whole thing seems simple - Boca don't want him (whatever the reasoning) so sell him, marginalise him in the reserves make reference to some disappointing displays in training or his ongoing personal problems. Afterall a club can only support a player for so long, they're not charities or welfare institutions. To effectively bar Caranta from the club is surely asking for trouble? A situation where only lawyers will profit. Whether you're on the side of the player or the club why should he be prevented from working and pursuing his career?

Later on in the TV show he resisted what must have been a strong temptation to talk negatively about Boca 'it would show a lack of respect to speak ill of the club' and concluded that 'I haven't won, neither have Boca, we've both lost'.

We're often told that in modern game the balance of power in football has shifted wholesale from club management and owners to the players. This episode demonstrates that in some instances the opposite is still the case.
Hasta luego!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Are We There Yet?

Football is a great game for those of us who love the odd cliche, in fact even talking about cliches has become somewhat of a cliche..............lets see: 'marathon not a sprint', 'its a results business', 'he knows where the goal is' (always an advantage for a striker I find). Whilst Liverpool were dismantling Manchester United today the-crap-performance-after-a-midweek-game cliches were given an airing ie United look 'heavy legged' etc. As to why a routine 2-0 home victory over an uninspired Internazionale should take it out of a club able to field two world class first teams is anyone's guess. But I'm not a professional pundit.

Looking at the 8 Champions League quarter finalists the furthest any of them will have to travel is probably around 1100 miles. Things are slightly less convenient for the big teams before the knock out stages as they have the trauma of travelling to Eastern Europe but UEFA's seedings normally ensure these sides are dispensed with before Christmas. Spare a thought then for Lanús who in their next game in the Copa Libertadores travel north for 5000 miles to face Chivas Guadalajara of Mexico. In a previous group game the team also travelled to Venezuela to face Caracas where they were soundly beaten 3-1. The team are currently bottom of Group 6 but hopefully they can take some comfort from the Air Miles they are clocking-up.

After taking 3 points from 3 games in Group 6 Estudiantes coach Leonardo Astrada resigned last week in the wake of their 1-0 loss to Deportivo of Quito, Ecuador. Altitude training should have been on the schedule during the summer break as Quito sits at a lung busting 9300ft (2850m) above sea level and their next trip takes them to a similar altitude at Universitario de Sucre in Bolivia. Could you imagine the reaction of Messrs Fearguson on Wenger on having to play in the clouds? With just one win from 3 games San Lorenzo too haven't exactly set the competition alight either and have threatened to lodge an official complaint to CONMEBOL after their bus was attacked as the team made its way to the stadium in Lima to face Universitario. Boca Juniors made the epic trip to Deportivo Tachira in Venezuela. The journey would test the resolve of the most determined backpacker with stops in Lima and Bogota before an overnight stop in Cúcuta, Colombia and 60km road trip across the border. Surprisingly Boca negotiated this 'potential banana skin' and ran out 1-0 winners, although the midweek trip may have taken it's toll on the team as they went down 2-0 against Independiente last weekend.

It's still very early days in the competition as we're only half way through the group stage and I haven't even mentioned River who have back to back games against Nacional of Montevideo to come which is a mere hop across the water. The world's most prolific top-flight goalscorer Argentine Lucas Barrios of Colo Colo is proving 'he knows where the goal is' after scoring 3 times in the competition so far including the opener at their away win against Palmeiras.

The variety of teams in the Copa Libertadores ensures that the eleven players on the pitch is only one aspect of the game.

Hasta luego!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

A Hi-Tech Solution

Mendoza turned into the wild west on Thursday evening as the game between Godoy Cruz and San Martin, de Tucumán was abandoned in the 63rd minute due to crowd trouble. It seems that the authorities were aware of the potential for problems in this fixture after Godoy Cruz fans were attacked in 2008. Internet chatter in various forums also anticipated a 'ruck' which is why there were 870 police on duty. Even so order was unable to be retained after the home fans tried to attack the visitors and the police stepped in using rubber bullets and tear gas whilst being showered with stones. The riot resulted in 10 injured police, one stabbed supporter, 30 arrests and more negative publicity for the game. For the record the score when abandoned was 1-1. View a news reprt here:

In view of the continued problems any opposition to the AFA's hi-tech identity card scheme could be diminishing fast. The proposal was approved by the Executive Commitee a few weeks ago and will be administered by the National Technology University (UTN). In practical terms each fan who wishes to attend a game will have to register and will then receive an identity card. These cards will include a photo and fingerprint details. In a radical departure tickets will no longer be sold at stadiums and fans will have to purchase them from ATM's or by telephone. The cards will then be scanned and checked at the stadium to ensure the owner of the card is the owner of the ticket. The scheme will be trialed at Lanús in May. AFA President Julio Grondona hopes the scheme will encourage families to return to stadiums.
It seems to be a step in the right direction however it must be remembered that many of the barras are in cahoots with some administrations and the clubs will need to weed out these elements too. Behavioural Scientist Otto Adang has advised many European countries on combating football violence including at the last 3 European Championships. He has recently been in Argentina and highlighted the different nature of the problem here. 'In Argentina the European solution is impractical. In Europe the hooligans were on the fringes of the system. Here (Argentina) they have surprising links to the business of football'. The business he refers to is on occasion holding players contracts/registrations, controlling merchandise sales, travel and selling drugs.

Hasta luego!