Tag Archive | "football"

Indy Eye: Thousands Celebrate Despite Argentina’s World Cup Final Loss


Tens of thousands took to the streets last night to celebrate Argentina making it to the World Cup final for the first time in 24 years. Despite losing 1-0 to Germany in extra time, festivities went on into the early hours in public plazas around the country. However, in Buenos Aires, despite the mostly peaceful gatherings, at the Obelisco the celebrations ended violently after groups clashed with police. Around 120 people have been detained.

This morning, hundreds of people turned out to greet the squad upon their return to Argentina, and various kilometres of cars packed the streets around Ezeiza international airport and the Argentine Football Association terrain, where the players went after landing. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner travelled to the AFA site to meet with the players in an official ceremony.

Foto: Alejandro Amdan/enviado especial/Télam/lz

Argentina’s hopes lay on the shoulders of these 11 men (Photo: Alejandro Amdan/enviado especial/Télam/lz)

 

Vecinos de la Villa 31 palpitaron la final de la Copa Mundial 2014 en la calle, donde se instaló una pantalla gigante. Foto: José Romero/Télam/dsl

Thousands turned out to watch the final on giant screens in public plazas around the country, such as this one in Villa 31 (Photo: José Romero/Télam/dsl)

 

Foto: Juan Roleri/enviado especial/Télam/cf

Many were inconsolable at Argentina’s extra time defeat to Germany (Photo: Juan Roleri/enviado especial/Télam/cf)

 

Foto: Juan Roleri/enviado especial/Télam/cf

But Argentina’s star striker Lionel Messi won the tournament’s ‘Golden Ball’ (Photo: Juan Roleri/enviado especial/Télam/cf)

 

Foto: Pepe Delloro/Telam/cf

Although that wasn’t enough for some, like this girl in Neuquén (Photo: Pepe Delloro/Telam/cf)

 

 Foto: Osvaldo Fanton/Télam/dsl

Thousands headed to Buenos Aires Obelisco despite the loss, to celebrate Argentina making it to the final for the first time in 24 years (Photo: Osvaldo Fanton/Télam/dsl)

 

Foto: Alejandro Santa Cruz/Télam/dsl

Celebrations continued into the early hours, in a carnival-like atmosphere (Photo: Alejandro Santa Cruz/Télam/dsl)

 

Foto:Víctor Carreira/Télam/dsl

And whilst the real cup will be heading to Germany, some took the chance to pose with this giant model (Photo: Víctor Carreira/Télam/dsl)

 

Foto: José Romero/Télam/ddc

This morning fans flocked to Ezeiza to greet the national squad upon their return (Photo: José Romero/Télam/ddc)

 

Foto: Leonardo Zavattaro/Télam/lz

Star players Messi, Lavezzi, Demichelis, and Mascherano touch down in Argentina (Photo: Leonardo Zavattaro/Télam/lz)

 

Thousans lined the steets to wait for the team's bus to pass (Photo: José Romero/Télam/ddc)

A multitude lined the steets to wait for the team’s bus to pass (Photo: José Romero/Télam/ddc)

 

Foto: Presidencia/Télam/dsl

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner with the national team (Photo: Presidencia/Télam/dsl)

 

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Hugo Moyano Elected President of Independiente


Hugo Moyano, of Agrupación Independiente, was elected president of Independiente (photo: Julián Alvarez/Télam/cf)

Hugo Moyano, of Agrupación Independiente, was elected president of Independiente (photo: Julián Alvarez/Télam/cf)

Unionist Hugo Moyano was elected president of first-division football club Independiente yesterday, after winning the election with almost 70% of the vote.

The early election was called in the midst of a crisis that followed the resignation of former president Javier Cantero, who was unable to restore the club’s financial situation and who received threats from the barra bravas whose leadership he attempted to challenge.

Moyano, the secretary-general of the opposition faction of umbrella union CGT, will now have to face the club’s $400m deficit, among other challenges. “We will have to support Independiente because the club’s situation is alarming, both in the financial and economic aspects. We will do all it takes, we’ll make our best effort and sacrifice to normalise the situation. We won’t let the institution or its members down,” said Moyano once the election results were confirmed.

As well as president and first and second vice-presidents, all 162 members of the board were elected yesterday; 135 of them are members’ representatives. Politics are also well represented in the Board of Directors, with second vice-president Carlos Montana, from the national Ministry of Social Development and alleged ties to Security Secretary Sergio Berni, and Board member Cristian Ritondo, city legislator for PRO. Pablo Moyano, Hugo’s son and head of the truck drivers’ union, will also become a member of the Board. He and the new Secretary General Héctor ‘Yoyo’ Maldonado were involved in the administration of Julio Comparada, Cantero’s predecessor.

 

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Club Independiente: After a Season in Hell, What Next?


Francisco Pizzani had just scored the second goal. Wheeling away under intense rain in the Estadio Unico in La Plata, his teammates jumped him and formed a human mountain. The 2-0 result would assure promotion for the ‘Diablos Rojos‘ (Red Devils). A little under a year after relegation – the club’s worst sporting moment – Independiente were back in the Primera Division.

Independiente players celebrate winning promotion back to the Primera Division (photo: José Romero/Télam)

Independiente players celebrate winning promotion back to the Primera Division (photo: José Romero/Télam)

This achievement comes at a time when the club is preparing for an institutional change, with early elections set for 6th July. While different groups make deals and parade their candidates, whoever wins the presidency will inherit a difficult situation. Aside from the club’s $400m debt, there are also numerous conflicts with employees over unpaid wages. In addition, a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) has given Independiente 30 days to pay US$1.8m owed to Greek club Olympiakos for the transfer of Lionel Nuñez in 2010. If it fails to comply, it will begin the next season with a six-point penalty.

In the middle of all this, and despite frequent problems with its management, in April Independiente reached 100,000 members, the target set in 2012 as part of a plan to stimulate new revenue inflows.

‘A National Pride’

How to explain all of this? If you believe what the fans sing on the terraces, it’s because Independiente is a “national pride”. Leaving aside blind faith, Independiente is not just any other club in Argentina. Founded in 1905, it is the third most successful in terms of domestic trophies, and regional leader in terms of Copa Libertadores titles, with seven. For decades, the club’s 16 international trophies made it a global leader, earning it the nickname “King of Trophies”.

However, in recent years, Independiente has moved further and further away from the title fights. In the last 18 years, it has only had two triumphs: the Copa Sudamericana in 2010 and the Apertura league title in 2002.

Like almost all sports clubs in Argentina, Independiente’s central activity – the engine and measure of the institution – is football. But if anything has made this club an example, it is its relationship with the local community. Football brings the most money and the biggest problems, but every day hundreds of sporting and cultural activities take place in the club’s many installations, which include a community library that recently reopened after a group of volunteers worked to restore it.

The 1965 Independiente team that won the Copa Libertadores (photo via Wikipedia)

The 1965 Independiente team that won the Copa Libertadores (photo via Wikipedia)

Moreover, Independiente was the first club to move into formal education: the education centre that today has more than 1,500 students from nursery to secondary school is just metres from the stadium.

The construction of the arena itself – the Libertadores de América – is arguably the club’s biggest milestone, and frustration, of recent years. The ‘Red Devils’ should have their new ‘Hell’ by now, but though it was opened for matches in 2009, it is still not finished. Because of this, and because no one knows the true costs of its construction, the stadium has become a symbol of Independiente’s current situation.

The Comparada Era

Julio Comparada has businesses in the insurance sector, among others, linked to the company El Surco, which many investigations indicate belongs to Julio Humberto Grondona, the president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and FIFA vice-president, who was once also president of Independiente.

Comparada became president in 2005 with the task of stabilising the club’s finances after a marked deterioration under his predecessor, Andrés Ducatenzeiler. He faced the challenge of rebuilding a competitive team while managing a debt of $50m. During his term, the club received record sums from the sale of players that had come through the reserve teams. The sale of Sergio Agüero to Atletico Madrid brought in €20m, while Oscar Urstari’s move to Getafe brought in another €8m.

But despite these major inflows, and two terms in office, Comparada left the club in 2011 with a debt pile of nearly $200m. Moreover, construction company Unión, which took part in the building of the new stadium, had filed for bankruptcy, and was accused of misappropriating funds by making payments to companies that did not exist, as well as using the club’s money to finance the travel and accommodation of the barra brava (hooligans) in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Independiente's new stadium (left), next to that of rival club Racing, in the Avellaneda neighbourhood (photo via Wikipedia)

Independiente’s new stadium (left), next to that of rival club Racing, in the Avellaneda neighbourhood (photo via Wikipedia)

The Cantero Era

Javier Cantero, member of the HYTSA consultancy firm, assumed the presidency in December 2011. His objective? “To be the broom that sweeps the dirt from the club.” In the first annual general meeting (AGM) of his management, the results of an audit clarified Independiente’s true situation: liabilities of $320m and a monthly operational deficit of more than $600,000.

At the same meeting, Cantero offered to undergo a monthly audit. This attitude was added to his proposal to allow all the members to access the club’s numbers. But what really gave him a certain level of recognition was his fight against the barra.

Reporting the figures that Independiente spent on the barra ($70,000 per match, according to Cantero) and their place within the club, combined with his attitude to cut of all ties with the violent section of its fans, led him to not only face repercussions but also gain various problems.

In May 2012, a group of at least 30 barras, led by Pablo ‘Bebote’ Álvarez burst into the administration and made it to the president’s office to demand that their benefits be re-established, that they be given the tickets and coaches to travel to the matches again. It would be the first of various confrontations which provoked, among other things, a march by fans in support of Cantero and high-ranking national officials calling him to meetings.

But the constant tension would cause many problems within the club’s board. On the 21st May, after receiving various threats, the club’s vice-president, Claudio Keblaitis, handed in his resignation, although he was later convinced to just take leave of absence.

Independiente's 'barra brava' (photo via Wikipedia)

Independiente’s ‘barra brava’ (photo via Wikipedia)

But who is ‘Bebote’? Álvarez has been the head of Independiente’s barra since 2003. He took power upon his release from jail, having been imprisoned for four years for robbery. He cemented his leadership during Julio Comparada’s administration, making use of his ties with politicians and the police. As with all the barras, he built a network of illicit businesses to make money via the re-sale of tickets and by controlling everything around the stadium, such as informal parking and other posts.

Additionally, Álvarez was behind the idea to create Hinchadas Unidas Argentinas (Fans United Argentina), an NGO whose founding letter is signed by 11 barra brava heads, with the support of high political echelons tied to the national government, which allowed the barra to travel to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Management Problems

But the management of the club’s most important areas was not doing well. After a succession of bad seasons, on 15th June 2013 an unprecedented event took place: for the first time, Independiente was relegated from the first division to play in the National B.

Two weeks after, on 28th June, the balance sheets were supposed to be presented at the AGM. However, the meeting only got as far as the order of the day, then it was taken over by the barra brava who began throwing chairs up in the air and kicked the members of the Board out.

Hugo and Pablo Moyano, leaders of the Truck Drivers’ Union, were accused by the members of the Board of being responsible for the agression. “I don’t know any barra. The only one I know is Bebote, but everyone knows him because they’ve seen him at the stadium or on the media,” said Hugo Moyano on TV. The conflict immediately translated to national politics, with Cantero closer to the government and the Moyanos as part of the opposition.

After relegation, the club’s economic situation worsened. If this was not enough, the return of Álvarez to Argentina after a short period in exile created tension within the barra’s leadership, which was in the hands of César ‘Loquillo’ Rodríguez, Álvarez’s former second-in-command, who now refused to give up power. The fight over the profit to be made outside of the stadium has several chapters. Stolen flags. Threats through social networks. Cars shot at on the street. In the midst of it all, the fight over links with the police, local Peronism, and different unions, such as UOCRA (construction workers) and Truck Drivers.

With a debt of around $400m, economic problems became even more evident. In February, employees began a strike demanding the club pay them over $3m it owed them. From then on, workers had to resort to different measures every month in order to get paid.

Union leader Hugo Moyano has been closely involved with Independiente for years. (Photo: Santiago Trusso)

Union leader Hugo Moyano has been closely involved with Independiente for years. (Photo: Santiago Trusso)

To make matters worse, by the end of March the club received a judge’s order to pay a debt with a former player, Luciano Leguizamón, within five days. If it did not do it, all of its trophies would be seized. The ex-Arsenal forward had got to Independiente in 2012, but he only played 16 games and scored one goal. At the time, the debt reached $2.39m.

After trying in December, and due to the economic difficulties they were facing, on 28th March the Agrupación Independiente, whose best-known member is Hugo Moyano, made an offer to the club leadership: they would bring in $10m to pay for players’ wages from February to June in exchange for early elections and participation in the transitional government. Negotiations lasted for a month, and involved suspended meetings and accusations between both sides.

As negotiations went on, the last two resignations of Board members took place. In a little over two years, 16 out of the 27 members resigned. Whilst the first of these resignations were caused by the threats made to those who attempted to bring down the barra, the latest were justified by differences with the team’s leadership and even a refusal to sign the balance sheets. Finally, on 24th April, Javier Cantero resigned as president of the club.

The Transition

Keblaitis, the same person that had been first to hand in his resignation, was left in charge of the club. The deal with Moyano was signed immediately. It’s not the first time Moyano has been involved with Independiente: he played an influential role during Comparada’s first term, when his son, Pablo, was president of the club’s amateur football division.

Just a year after that dark day of relegation, part of the opposition have denounced an operating deficit of $4m and put the total debt at more than $195m. For this reason many are asking for the application of Law 25,284, which governs the rescue of sporting entities.

Today, amid the celebrations for the return to top flight football, different groups discuss their candidates for next month’s elections. As so often happens, many of those who were involved in the club’s recent history will return as candidates. The possibility of turning Independiente into a top tier club is at stake – the decision is now in the hands of the members.

 

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Swedish Football Player Reveals Detention by Argentine Military


Ralf Edström (photo: Wikipedia)

Ralf Edström (photo: Wikipedia)

Ralf Edström, a football player who was part of the Swedish national team in the 1970s, revealed he was detained and questioned by the Argentine military while he was in Buenos Aires for the 1978 World Cup.

Edström told Swedish radio yesterday that he had gone out for a walk before a match against Austria when he was picked up by two armed men whom he suspected were military personnel. He was then taken to an office where he was questioned by a man sitting behind a desk, wearing sunglasses.

After answering some questions about his nationality and showing his accreditation to the World Cup, he was released. “My heart was beating fast, though at the same time I was sure they wouldn’t dare do anything to a World Cup player. But I can’t even imagine what would have happened had I not had my ID on me,” said Edström.

The player believes the incident could have been related to a chance encounter he had had with a stranger a couple of days before, when he was sitting at a café on his own. The man turned out to be a lawyer, who told him about the situation the country was going through with tears in his eyes, and the two men ended up hugging.

“I think that’s why those men, who I understand belonged tot he military junta, kidnapped me a couple of days later, because they had seen me with that person.”

Asked about the reason why he is making these revelations now, Edström said he thought the moment was “right”. After the incident, he talked about it with some of his fellow players, but did not tell his coach. “I thought about telling the media, but I thought it was a sensitive issue, keeping in mind we were halfway through the World Cup and that we were in Argentina,” said Edström.

 

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Verón and Zanetti Call Full Time on Glittering Careers


Two of Argentina’s most iconic footballers of their generation, Juan Sebastián Verón and Javier Zanetti brought the curtain down on their long and illustrious careers when they played the final home games for their clubs at the weekend.

Juan Sebastián Verón (left) and Javier Zanetti (Photos via Flickr and Wikipedia)

Juan Sebastián Verón (left) and Javier Zanetti (Photos via Flickr and Wikipedia)

On Saturday in the Estadio Ciudad de La Plata, home of Estudiantes, Verón bade a tearful farewell as he made his last appearance against San Lorenzo for his boyhood idols. There, his career had undergone a staggering renaissance since returning to Argentina from Europe in 2006, winning the first division title that year, the 2009 Copa Libertadores (in which he was named ‘man of the tournament’), and the domestic title again in 2010. He told the crowd: “Estudiantes is my home, I was born here, and in the career of a player I could not ask for more.”

Meanwhile, on Sunday in Milan’s San Siro stadium, Zanetti came off the bench to a rapturous reception from Internazionale fans in honour of nearly two decades of distinguished service for the Nerrazzuri. After helping his club defeat Lazio 4-1, an emotional Zanetti told Sky Sports Italia: “I am crying inside thinking of saying goodbye to these marvellous fans, that have supported me though all the years of wearing this shirt and playing as captain. I have had an incredible career. The atmosphere today has been something special, I will always remember it.”

The Tractor and the Little Witch

The older of the pair, born on 10th August 1973, Zanetti was born and grew up in the working-class barrio of Dock Sud, just south of Buenos Aires, where in addition to his school studies he laboured as bricklayer alongside his father in order to supplement the family income. This instilled a work ethic that would become a feature of his later footballing career. He gained his professional break with Talleres de Remedios de Escalada in the second division where his energetic performances ploughing up and down the right-flank earned him the nickname ‘El Tractor’ and a swift transfer to top flight team Banfield in 1993.

Born in La Plata on 9th March 1975, Verón had football in his genes as the son of Juan Ramón Verón, a skilful winger in the notorious Estudiantes team of the late 1960s. His father’s nickname of ‘La Bruja’ (‘the witch’) led to Verón Junior being christened ‘La Brujita’. He started his career with his boyhood idols, Estudiantes, before joining Boca Juniors where he played alongside Diego Maradona in 1996.

International Careers

Both Zanetti and Verón made their international debuts in the mid-1990s under coach Daniel Passarella, who was putting together a new team of talented youngsters after the disappointing early demise of Argentina at the 1994 World Cup. They helped their country gain a silver medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and were mainstays of the team that reached the World Cup quarter final in 1998, a competition in which Verón was the subject of unsubstantiated slurs about a failed drugs test.

In 2002, they again both lined up together at the World Cup in what was considered the best Argentine side for many years, starting the tournament as many pundits’ favourites. However, the team fell to an ignominious first round defeat with Verón made the scapegoat after series of ineffectual displays. This disappointment signalled the start of a turbulent period in both players’ international careers.

Javier Zanetti in one of his last matches for Argentina, in 2011. (Photo: Fanny Schertzer, via Wikipedia)

Javier Zanetti in one of his last matches for Argentina, in 2011. (Photo: Fanny Schertzer, via Wikipedia)

Zanetti was controversially omitted from the 2006 and 2010 World Cup squads, despite his fine club form, by José Pekerman and Diego Maradona respectively. He was later restored by Sergio Batista for the 2011 Copa América, when he won the last of his record 145 caps for Argentina.

Meanwhile, after a period in the international wilderness, Verón was rehabilitated to the national team by Alfio Basile in 2007, giving a series of bravura performances at that year’s Copa América before ending his international career with 73 caps at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Italian Jobs

After earning rave reviews whilst playing for Argentina at the 1995 Intercontinental Cup in Riyadh, Zanetti netted a dream move to Italian giants Internazionale, where he soon established himself at right-back, earning comparisons with the Inter legend Giacinto Facchetti. Loved for his metronomic consistency of performance, the highlight of his career was captaining the Milanese side to victory in the UEFA Champions League in 2010, on his 700th appearance for the club.

Verón was not slow to follow his international colleague to the land of his forebears, signing for Sampdoria after just one season at Boca Juniors. His impressive performances earned him further big money moves to Parma and Lazio, where he won a number of trophies. However, his spell in Italy was overshadowed by question marks over the validity of the Italian passport used to gain him status as an EU player, which became part of a wider criminal investigation of fake passports, though Verón was acquitted of any wrongdoing by an Italian court in 2007. At the peak of his career – in 2001 – he joined English giants Manchester United for a club record fee of £28 million, but played out of position by Sir Alex Ferguson his career stalled, moving onto Chelsea in 2003 and spending a spell on loan with Internazionale before his joyous return to Estudiantes.

A tribute to Juan Sebastián Verón at his ast home game for Estudiantes (photo: Carlos Cermele/Télam)

A tribute to Juan Sebastián Verón at his ast home game for Estudiantes (photo: Carlos Cermele/Télam)

Off the Pitch

Despite the comparative riches that they have earned during their careers compared to some of their compatriots, the pair have never lost touch with their roots in their home country, donating both their time and money to causes close to their heart.

Whilst playing in Europe, Verón donated the funds to help his beloved Estudiantes to build a new training centre in the City Bell district of La Plata. Meanwhile, in response to the 2001 financial crash that devastated Argentina, Zanetti founded a charitable group – Fundación Pupi – named after his childhood nickname, designed to give children in some of the poorest barrios in Greater Buenos Aires a better start in life by providing facilities and programmes for health, nutrition, physical exercise and education, as well as trying to help their parents into work.

Outlining his motivation, Zanetti said: “When I look back to my childhood, many clear scenes come to mind, good ones and bad ones. I had a difficult childhood and even though I don’t live in my country at present, I’m well aware of what’s going on there and the devastating effect it’s having on our poorest children. I’ve always believed that our public actions need to take account of social responsibility.”

Mural of Javier Zanetti near the San Siro stadium in Milan (Photo: Stefano Stabile, via Wikipedia)

Mural of Javier Zanetti near the San Siro stadium in Milan (Photo: Stefano Stabile, via Wikipedia)

For Zanetti the immediate future remains in Milan where he will remain with Inter in an ambassadorial role on the board of directors. As he recently told UEFA.com: “For some reason I have always felt at home here at Inter and this is why I have never thought of leaving.” Meanwhile Verón will also remain with his current club Estudiantes as Director of Sport.

As they prepare for another assault on the World Cup, Argentina’s current crop of stars will do well if they can emulate the career longevity and success of these two icons.

 

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Out Now: El Otro Maradona


afiche-low‘El Otro Maradona’ is a documentary based in the framework of duality, directed by Ezequiel Luka and Gabriel Amiel, who took more than seven years to shine a light on the tale.

The narrative starts with a metaphor. In a poor neighbourhood some kids of all ages and sizes take to the street. The oldest one lights a firecracker and they all run away. The smallest one remains in the frame, dressed in an Argentina shirt with a number 10 and the name Messi. When he reaches the wall he covers his eyes and ears with his hands and waits, waits. The fuse burns out, but nothing happens.

The protagonist is Gregorio ‘Goyo’ Carrizo, who was born nine days before Diego Maradona. This could be just another anecdote, centred around the idol, told by an Argentine at an asado.

But this story is different. Goyo Carrizo was born – and still lives – in Villa Fiorito, a marginalised, southern suburb of Buenos Aires, which became famous as the birthplace of arguably the best football player of all time. Carrizo also has some fame: every now and then he gives an interview about Maradona’s childhood, and any football-loving Argentine knows his story.

Carrizo was not just another neighbour for Maradona, but an intimate companion during afternoon football in the neighbourhood’s paddock, which doubled as a pitch after Carrizo’s dad built some goalposts. It was Carrizo who started playing in the youth side for Argentinos Juniors (‘Los Cebollitas’) and who recommended the coach, Francisco Cornejo, invite his friend to join the team, with a phrase that is part of footballing history: “Francis, there’s a kid in my neighbourhood who plays better than me.”

Together, the three of them wrote the history of the ‘Cebollitas’, the 1970s’ youth team who were unbeaten in 136 games and won countless tournaments. They had everything it takes to triumph in football. Maradona would debut in the first division aged 15 in 1976 and Carrizo would join him a year later. Maradona’s story is known to all. Carrizo, on the other hand, suffered a knee injury, which changed the course of his career.

The 'Cebollitas'

The ‘Cebollitas’ (photo courtesy of El Otro Maradona)

Here, the well-known tale ends. It was this that inspired Luka and Amiel to create the film, and to convince Carrizo to let them tell his story, something which was not easy at first, and took some time.

There must have been many temptations as to what story to tell, but the success of the final product is that it tells his story, the story that was denied, that which departs (as much as it can) from the Maradona fable.

Because, beyond the unseen footage of the ‘Cebollitas’, which would appeal to any fan, ‘El Otro Maradona’ is not a film about Diego, though he is constantly present, like a possibility that was never realised, the most extreme expression of what could have been. This is a film about the reflective nature of football, it is a film about life itself and, above all, a film about the life of Goyo Carrizo.

If it had not been for his friendship with Maradona, Carrizo would have been just another one of the thousands of kids from the wrong side of the tracks who, faced with few opportunities, rely on their talent and devote themselves to “being saved by football”, and for whom, for one reason or another, the luck doesn’t last, leaving them scarred, often as literally as Carrizo is on his right knee.

And the possibilities grow fewer. And doors are closed. Frustration leads to depression and the past turns into an anchor that can lead to new depths. In a marginalised neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, many of the doors that open only lead to an abyss.

Goyo Carrizo, making his way onto a pitch (photo courtesy of El Otro Maradona)

Goyo Carrizo, making his way onto a pitch (photo courtesy of El Otro Maradona)

The story, told in first person through Carrizo’s thoughts, grows deeper as the minutes pass. As if gaining confidence, the camera becomes more intimate. And the umpteenth time that we hear “Goyo was better than Diego”, Carrizo confesses to being embarrassed. What is an exaggerated compliment to most, for him only adds weight to the cross he bears.

This is when William appears, to help his friend lift the anchor and, almost unintentionally, add a touch of needed humour to the story. So they can start to trace a new path together, to write their own story.

So it is friendship again. And football once again as a possibility, as a way of escape for many, and not just those who can be seen from Carrizo’s terrace in Villa Fiorito.

‘El Otro Maradona’ is out now, and screening at cinemas across Argentina. For more information on the film and on showings, visit www.elotromaradona.com.ar

 

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Argentina News Roundup: 30th April 2014


Pablo Moyano (photo: Daniel Dabove/Télam)

Pablo Moyano (photo: Daniel Dabove/Télam)

Threats of Violence in Quilmes Over Rubbish Collection Dispute: The secretary of the truck drivers’ union, Pablo Moyano, delivered a veiled threat of violence to Quilmes mayor Francisco Gutiérrez amid an ongoing dispute over rubbish collection in the municipality. Drivers from the private collection company Covelia have been on strike since Monday over the decision to transfer control of rubbish collection in the area to the municipality after the firm’s contract expires this week. According to Moyano, the move will affect the jobs and salaries of more than 400 employees. Speaking to press yesterday about the conflict, Moyano said “if there has to be a death in Quilmes, then there will be.” The union leader added today on local radio that “a while ago, a city council employees killed a mayor after being dismissed.” Gutiérrez, who ratified the transfer of control today, said Moyano’s comments were “lamentable”, adding that “with that type of attitude it is impossible to start a dialogue.” The strike continues today, with rubbish in the area piling up on the streets and Moyano also threatening to call a nationwide strike of truck drivers in solidarity with the Covelia workers.

AFA Approves New Format for Domestic Football: The Argentine Football Association approved yesterday a new format for the domestic football league. The new structure, to be introduced in February 2015, will see the first division expand from 20 to 30 teams, with each playing each one once (a total of 29 fixtures). The 30th round of matches will be the repeat fixture of a local ‘clasico‘ (derby match). In the case of teams without a derby rival, AFA will designate the opposition based on geography. To determine which ten teams will join the 20 existing top-tier clubs for the new division, the B Nacional (second division) will play a special transitional tournament in the second half of 2014. The new structure, if confirmed, will replace the existing format of two championships per year. AFA President Julio Grondona said today that the new format would be “fairer, in sporting terms”, claiming it would make the competition “more federal”, by including more teams from outside of Greater Buenos Aires. However, others have criticised the changes as confusing and unnecessary.

The B-line subway to Parque Chas. (Photo: Beatrice Murch)

The B-line subway to Parque Chas. (Photo: Beatrice Murch)

Subte B Line to Reduce Service For Works: From next Monday until February 2015, the B Line on the Buenos Aires subte will operate a reduced service due to construction work. On weekdays, the service will begin one hour later and end one hour earlier than normal, running from 6am-10pm. Trains will stop running at 1pm on Saturday. and the line will be closed completely on Sundays and public holidays. The changes are part of works to incorporate 86 new carriages into the service by next year. Subte owner Sbase, of the city of Buenos Aires, said a reduced service was “essential” to make necessary modifications to the power system and prepare the line for new the carriages arriving from Madrid. The company said the new carriages will include improved safety features, as well as air conditioning and security cameras. The incorporation of new carriages should also increase the frequency of trains on one of the city’s busiest subte lines. However, the planned changes have also drawn some criticism. The website enelsubte.com said extensive and costly plans to broaden platforms, change the power system, and alter the line’s gauge were “incomprehensible” for “second-hand and insufficient” trains.

 

 

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Football Match Ends in Violence With Two Dead in Rosario


Newell's and Lanus game last night part of the Torneo Inicial 2013 (photo: José Granata/Télam/c)

Newell’s and Lanús game last night part of the Torneo Inicial 2013 (photo: José Granata/Télam/c)

A football match between Newell’s and Lanús, part of the Torneo Inicial 2013, ended in violence  yesterday after two men on a motorcycle opened fire on Newell’s supporters. Two have been declared dead and four are in serious condition in hospital in Rosario.

Rosario’s team Newell’s tied against Lanús in the final match of the tour. No violent episodes were registered within the stadium. However, some Newell’s supporters were in a minibus driving from Rosario back to Buenos Aires when men began firing at the vehicle after it crossed an intersection where the motorcycle was waiting. According to eyewitnesses, two men on a motorcycle were responsible for the violence and sources claim they were supporters of Newell’s main rival, Rosario Central.

The passengers in the minibus are from Buenos Aires and were beginning their trip back to the capital when the incident occurred. According to newspaper La Capital of Rosario, one of the deceased has been identified as a 39 year-old-man who received a shot to his face. The other man that perished was a 34 year-old that was shot multiple times in his head and chest. There was also a nine year-old child amongst the injured, who was shot in her hand. One of the deceased was the driver of the minibus.

The incident took place around 40 blocks from the stadium where the two teams played. According to the police, the crime took place in an area that is well-known for violence.

Police are investigating the attack. At the scene of the crime, they claimed the perpetrators fired around 12 shots and had no intention of robbing the vehicle.

This is the latest violent episode in Argentine football. According to the Argentine NGO Save Football, more than 70 people have been killed since 2000 in football related rivalry. In a bid to put an end to the violence, the government initiated a new system in July to check whether individuals buying tickets for games have criminal records. Before being able to purchase tickets, supporters must present an identity card with their biometric data and criminal record. This move would prevent those with criminal records from entering stadiums.

While efforts for controlling violence in stadiums have been stepped up, aggression outside of the stadium has been more difficult to curb, as this latest incident proves.

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Transfers and Triangulations: Following the Money Trail in Argentine Football


A new season of the Argentine football championship began in early August. Just like in every winter break, several players were transferred between clubs. Some of the clubs that purchased players, however, are still waiting for the transfers to be approved, as many of them are under investigation by the tax office (AFIP).

AFIP, through its director Ricardo Echegaray, revealed earlier this month that most of the transactions carried out during the winter break are being investigated. The transfer of Emanuel Gigliotti to Boca Juniors was put especially under the spotlight, but dozens of other transfers, involving Argentine clubs as well as others from Uruguay, Spain, and United Arab Emirates, are suspected of irregularities.

AFIP Offices (photo: Beatrice Murch)

AFIP Offices (photo: Beatrice Murch)

Football’s Tax Havens

A year ago, AFIP decided to start regulating the football transfers’ market. Back then, Echegaray presented a registry of “football businessmen” and agents. Anyone involved in these transactions had to be registered -from businessmen or businesses involved in purchasing players to agents whose job it is to secure the best deals for their clients (the players).

During the presentation of the registry, Echegaray provided a detailed explanation about the “triangulation schemes” used in transfers, which involve what he called “sporting tax heavens”. These are clubs in countries like Uruguay -among others- that mysteriously sign up players, but who never end up playing there.

These triangulations are generally carried out by club officials and agents, though it is hard to believe players are unaware of the mechanism. The benefit for those involved comes in the form of tax evasion, which in Argentina can amount to 35% of the transaction. According to an investigation by Alvaro Goitía from El Observador in Montevideo, the low tax rates awarded by Uruguay’s tax agency (DGI) make the country one of the preferred destinations for clubs and agents to transfer players to the European market.

Uruguay charges less than 5% of the total amount of the operation in taxes, making it tempting for those seeking to avoid taxes in their home countries, where it is hard to find rates below 20%. Transfers are then carried out through Uruguay selling, for example, a player from an Argentine club to a Uruguayan club for a lower amount and paying the 35% required by AFIP. Then, the Uruguayan club transfers the player to a European club for millions of dollars, paying the corresponding taxes to the Uruguayan tax office. The triangulation is thus completed, benefitting -through tax evasion- clubs, agents, and players.

AFA Logo

AFA Logo

‘Football For All’

Not long ago, AFIP entered the world of football in order to start controlling the flows of money from the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and the clubs. That is money, after all, that the state started providing after the implementation of the ‘Fútbol Para Todos’ (‘Football For All’) TV programme in 2009.

In August that year, the television rights of Argentine football changed hands, in what is considered a historical turn of events. AFA ended the contract it had held with Clarín media group for 18 years and the state started broadcasting all the First Division matches on free-to-air television -including the state-owned channel- in a move that has few precedents in the world.

In 2012, three years after AFA and the government signed the contract for the broadcasting rights of Argentine football, AFIP started to close in on the destination of the hundreds of millions of dollars that the clubs receive, through AFA, on television rights. During its first stage, the programme paid US$600m. In 2011, this amount went up to US$800m, and in 2013 the budget for ‘Fútbol Para Todos’ was US$1.2bn, according to a report by the director of the Centre for the Implementation of Public Policies for Equality and Growth (CIPPEC), Luciana Díaz Frers.

During these four years, the clubs’ debts continued to grow -a historical situation that has become structural in Argentine football. An investigation by Juan Mattio for the judicial news site InfoJus revealed that clubs owe a total of $1.4bn. Some $800m out of that total is owed by Boca Juniors, River Plate, and Independiente, which is now for the first time in its history playing in Division B (only two years after River was relegated).

The Gigliotti Case

Boca, which has never been relegated, is one of the clubs that has received the most pressure this season due to the irregularities found in the transfer of Emanuel Gigliotti. The striker played the previous season in Colón de Santa Fé, which owns 50% of his rights. The remaining 50% was owned by Fénix club, from Montevideo, one of the main “sporting tax havens” described by Echegaray.

Shortly after Gigliotti was transferred to Boca, the 50% of his rights owned by Fénix surprisingly ended up in the hands of Italy’s Novara club, which signed off on the deal by selling the player to Boca. AFIP carried out a thorough inspection in Boca to try and determine the real ownership of Gigliotti’s rights, and also investigated his agent, Jorge Cyterszpiler.

According to the tax office, Cyterszpiler owns two undeclared companies overseas: Fuder Sports B.V. in The Netherlands and Sport Management Services Ltd. in the UK. AFIP has requested information from those countries, from Uruguay’s DGI, and from Italy’s Novara Calcio football club. Colón de Santa Fe, a club managed by Germán Lerche, who is very close to AFA president Julio Grondona, tried to clarify their position by stating that the club “understands, based on AFIP’s resolutions and in agreement with the tax agency, that 50% of the rights are owned by the player himself and not by the institutions that have been mentioned as being part of a triangulation,” as published by Clarín newspaper in July.

Emanuel Gigliotti (left) is presented as a new signing for Boca Juniors in July (photo: Alejandro Santa Cruz/Télam/dsl)

Emanuel Gigliotti (left) is presented as a new signing for Boca Juniors in July (photo: Alejandro Santa Cruz/Télam/dsl)

Daniel Angelici, president of Boca Juniors, did not seem concerned about AFIP’s investigation, saying that “we live under the rule of law and if AFIP thinks there have been illegal dealings in any player’s transfer they must prove it. And they must prove it before the courts. We don’t know how AFIP works. According to AFA’s latest bulletin, Gigliotti and the rest of the transferred players have been authorised [to play]. I can’t see why they wouldn’t let players work. The federative and economic rights were held by Novara of Italy, which is the club Boca bought the transfer from. We have responded to all the requirements made by AFIP and Gigliotti has the right to work and to play for Boca.”

Gigliotti has indeed played for Boca, even though AFIP is still investigating irregularities in his and other players’ transfers.

Discrepancies

Only recently, on 2nd August, the agency announced that a high percentage of overseas transfers do not comply with current regulations. Echegaray revealed that his office carried out a media survey which indicated a total of 33 purchases of players from abroad for a total of US$12.5m. However, only eight transactions were registered in AFIP for a value of US$6.5m, and half of them are under investigation.

In terms of players transferred from Argentine clubs to overseas destinations, the situation is just as bad. AFIP’s media survey found 28 transfers for around US$31m, of which only eight were declared, for a value of US$18m. The difference is even greater when it comes to transfers within the country: of 144 transfers for $64m, clubs only registered 40 transactions for some $6m.

The picture painted by these numerous transactions gives a clear idea of the massive task AFIP is facing. Meanwhile, the Argentine football season is in full swing and many players whose transfers are under investigation are already playing in their new teams. In late July, AFA received a letter from the tax agency asking it to take measures in regards to these players. However, that is as far as AFIP can go, and it is up to AFA to decide if a player is prevented from playing due to contractual irregularities. In more complex situations, the Labour Ministry could also intervene, however that does not seem like an option for the time being.

After decades of playing the transfer game under their own rules, it remains to be seen whether AFA will be willing or able to enact effective rules to tackle these issues, as the state attempts to establish some accountability over the funds it provides to the football industry. The ‘Fútbol Para Todos‘ money has been flowing for four years, and the state is now trying to control the destination of those funds more firmly.

So far, on the surface at least, AFA has accepted AFIP’s decisions, modifying the usual transfer mechanisms to comply with the controls being carried out by the state – controls that a multi-million dollar programme like ‘Fútbol Para Todos’ deserves. But one month into the new season, with the players under investigation already appearing for their new clubs, an important question remains: what has really changed?

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AFA Bans Away Crowds and Non-Members at Football Matches


Estadio Maracana, Rio de Janeiro Brazil (Photo: Matthew Winterburn on Flickr)

(Photo: Matthew Winterburn on Flickr)

The Argentine Football Association (AFA) announced yesterday that only members from the home team will be allowed to enter the stadiums on match day, in order to stop the wave of violence that affects football.

This measure will be tested in the first two rounds of fixtures of the next championship, from the A to the D categories.

The decision, taken between AFA and the security ministries of the City of Buenos Aires, the Province of Buenos Aires, and the federal government, is expected to prevent supporters from the away team to infiltrate into the locals’ stands, thus avoiding fights.

The announcement comes ten days after the last episode of football violence, when two people were killed before a friendly game between Boca Juniors and San Lorenzo de Almagro.

Boca’s president Daniel Angelici immediately expressed his disagreement with the new conditions, claiming that “away crowds shouldn’t be penalised for [the actions of] two hundred misfits.”

The governor of Córdoba, José Manuel de La Sota, also rejected the measure, going as far as suggesting it will not be carried out in his province. “Let football be a family celebration. In Córdoba we want both [home and away] crowds at the stadium,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that “The CoSeDePro [Provincial Sports Safety Committee] has the power to decide if Córdoba plays with home and away crowds. Violent people out. They won’t take our celebration away.”

The first game of the first division championship is scheduled for Friday, while the second game will take place between Wednesday and Friday of next week.

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