May 22, 2013
Cantero thinks gov’t will help
One champion: AFA realizes after 21 years
There are less than half a dozen soccer clubs in Argentina which professed their intention to battle the hooligans, but only one is doing it seriously — Independiente, under its president Javier Cantero. But he has against him one of the country's most dangerous hooligan gangs, politicians, the police, courts, the Argentine FA (AFA) and, it seems, lacks the support of other clubs and government which looks the other way.
In the last few days the battle has escalated. Cantero had already stopped giving them free tickets to sell, pay them and many other things they were used to under the previous administration, but last week he had their flags, drums, etc. confiscated which they had always kept at the club. The gang was refused an interview with him, so they broke into his office at Independiente, locked the door behind them and threatened him, although he said later on TV he had not been threatened (?).
AFA's president, Julio Grondona went to see Cantero to offer his support which immediately brings up a vision of Judas supporting Jesus Christ. Grondona has always washed his hands of the matter and said it is the government's problem and not the AFA's. But he is wrong as 98% of its affiliated clubs are either run by hooligan gangs or committees which support them actively (which is the same thing). The AFA had a chance to stop this in various ways long before it got out of hand — just as Cantero has now told his players that they will be sanctioned by the club if they have anything to do with hooligans (like giving them money).
But as mentioned in last Friday's SPORTSWORLD, the clubs now feel like going straight to the government with their problems instead of to the AFA and Cantero went to the Government House where he saw Cabinet Chief Juan Abal Medina. Cantero left happy because he was told that concrete measures would be taken to eradicate the hooligans. Of course, we have heard this story many times in the past. Seeing is believing, so let's wait and see! Cantero also met other ministers, including Nilda Garré (security) who all offered their "support".
Cantero has said he will expel the hooligans who are also club members — he should have done that before — and extend the ban to keep them all out of the stadium (if the government helps). The hooligans are perfectly well known. Sports paper Olé published pictures and a list of the leaders, but one of them unbelievably got a court order to keep his name out of the media.
Last weekend, at Independiente's match at Arsenal, the hooligans were banned from the small stadium in Sarandí, so they stayed outside and threw stones at the stand where Independiente supporters were, injuring some of them. There were police, but no arrests were made. But police at matches were also the ones who let in hooligans free at previous games, saying it was to "avoid trouble". Cantero also had an official police count taken at one match and it turned out that only half the number the club paid for were there.
Apart from Independiente receiving one embargo after another for money owed by the previous administration under Julio Comparada, but of which there is no record in the bankrupt club's books, Cantero is up against a gang nurtured by Comparada, their unofficial leader, who threatened his opponents in Annual General Meetings, elections and elsewhere. Gang leaders say they have the support of politicians, police, judges, the powerful transport union under Moyano's son (who wanted to enter the committee) and even of the soccer security committee and it certainly looks like it.
Under Comparada, the gang received plenty of free tickets to sell, travelling costs to away games, car parking charges, 50,000 pesos a month and at one time 20,000 pesos per match to act as stadium "guardians" and also a percentage of all materials which came for the building of the new stadium ... and I may have missed out some benefits. It's obvious they do not want to give all this up without a fight.
It is also obvious Cantero and his committee need all the effective support they can get ... but are they getting it?
NEXT SEASON. On Tuesday, the AFA's executive committee approved the changes in the format of next season's championships. Nearly all of the changes have already been mentioned in this column but .... surprise, surprise... after 21 years the AFA has finally realized that there should be one champion a year, something SPORTSWORLD has always urged, as done in all other countries which have an opening and closing championship. But it takes some people more than others for sense to sink in. So the winners of the two tournaments will play a final for the title. As they are always after money, it would have made more sense to have home and away legs or even a final round with several leading clubs, but under the present August to June season, with a long summer break, there is no time.
The clubs wanted to continue with two tournaments. If you follow their wishes, they would probably want to play a tournament every month so that they can win more titles. Grondona convinced them but it is said the "suggestion" came from the government. Good for them! The averages to decide relegation continue — three clubs will be relegated — but will it now take another 21 years for the AFA to realize the folly of its ways?
The last annual champion, by the way, was Newell's Old Boys in season 1990/91 — coached by Marcelo Bielsa.
Next season, the title finalists (winners of the two tournaments), the club with most points in the season, the South American Cup and Argentine Cup winners will be the five to qualify for the Libertadores Cup. The season's champion also goes into the South American Cup plus five teams with most points during the season which are not in the Libertadores Cup.
But as somebody said this week: "All this changing around of championships by the AFA does not cover their lack of will to do something about their 98% of hooligan orientated clubs."