Tag Archive | "football"

Skin in the Game: Argentine Football Fanatics and their Tattoos


Football is famously part of Argentine culture and history. It is a passion for most Argentines, countless memories of good – and bad – moments in the stadium cheering and singing with friends and family. It is something of a cliché by now, but in Argentina, football truly is more than a sport. It is a world that brings people together, and for some it’s a part of their identity, their club a home where they feel they belong.

For some, this passion is strong enough to tattoo the name or emblem of their football club. They wear their team’s colours as a permanent badge of honour.

The Indy met some of those fans who decided to make their love for football timeless.

Damian – River Plate

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Damian Medina, 23, is from Buenos Aires and had his tattoo done when he was 18 years old.

“I wanted to do it when I was 14 but my mother didn’t let me. I wanted it because it is a mark for life, something that stays forever.

“I want to add lyrics from a River Plate song and a picture of Fernando Cavenaghi, who is a god to me, and who won the Copa Libertador.”

Damian’s room is full of memories, pictures and accessories related to River Plate. A small pillow on his bed says: ‘I am River since I was born. Yes Sirs, I am River.’

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“I have had this pillow since I was born. My dad and I are River Plate but the rest of the family is San Lorenzo,” he says. “My dad took me to both stadiums and told me ‘which club will you choose?’ At four years old I chose River Plate, at that age mostly for the colours. But now for everything, the stadium, colours, everything is beautiful.”

His most beautiful memory with River Plate was during the final of the Copa Libertador. “It was incredible mostly for the atmosphere, for what it meant to win the cup in 2015.”

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“I go to the stadium alone and I meet friends there, friends I only see at the stadium who go like me every Sundays. We spend all day singing and celebrating. I don’t only go for the game but also for this experience, otherwise I would just watch it on TV.”

For him, going to the stadium is a way to forget his problems. “It fill me with joy, gives me what I need. If I feel bad, I go to the stadium and feel better again.”

The toughest time for him was when River slumped as the presidents of the club stole money and left it bankrupt. “I didn’t leave my house for a week, did not go to work. But then we came back and came back stronger. Everything happens for a reason.”

Damian just had a new baby brother and the family always debate about which team he should support. “I don’t say anything, when he’s older I will take him to the stadium and he will choose.”

 

Daiana y Micaela – San Lorenzo

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Daiana Medina and Micaela de Vito, 21, are Damian’s sister and cousin. Micaela did her tattoo when she was 18 and Daiana when she was 16.

“It is men who usually have football tattoos so as a girl it was not easy to find a sketch that is delicate, nice and that made sense for me,” says Micaela. “As a girl it is hard to find something pretty.

“Football is a very manly sport so a girl who has a football tattoo is not really well perceived.”

“Women can’t talk about football,” adds Daiana.

For Micaela, things are getting better as, little by little, men start to accept women’s opinion about football and the fact that they participate.

“More and more women go to the stadium,” says Micaela. “Before it was with the family and the father was running everything but now women tend to come alone, without men.”

Micaela de Vito

Micaela de Vito

Daiana and Micaela go every week to the stadium with a group of girls composed of friends and cousins to support San Lorenzo.

“If I had said to my family that I was from another club they would have killed me,” said Micaela laughing. “But I never doubted it, as far as I remember I always wanted to go to the stadium, I always liked football and particularly San Lorenzo.”

Their grandparents actually met in San Lorenzo’s stadium. “Football is like religion to us,” says Daiana.

San Lorenzo lost its original stadium during the military dictatorship. The land was sold to Carrefour, but now the club is close to building a new stadium on the original site in Boedo.

“ On the 8th March 2012 we protested in Plaza de Mayo to get a historical restitution law,” says Micaela. “We filled the place and I remember it like it was yesterday because you were looking at the other and you knew what he was thinking about. It was not about championship or anything, we felt unique. I think we are unique for our history and for what we have been through.”

“It goes further than football, it something all Argentina suffers from,” says Micaela. “Someone who is 80 years old lives it the same way that someone who is 16.”

Diana Medina

Daiana Medina

For Daiana and Micaela, going to the stadium is something that you are waiting for all week. “It makes you crazy, it fills you with emotions, a feeling you can’t explain,” says Daiana. “Why are we such fans of San Lorenzo? We don’t know. For some it is painting, other music, for us it is football, it is a passion that your family give you.”

“My brother is crazy about River Plate and I understand it because I am crazy about San Lorenzo,” say Daiana. “There is a saying: “Only those who share my passion understand my craziness.”

 

Javier – All Boys

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Javier Alejandro Burns, 38, has been a huge fan of All Boys since he was four. “It is a small neighbourhood club, not like River or Boca,” he says.

“My biological father is from the United States, I never met him and my mother’s current husband is like my father. He was playing in the lower category of that club and as it was also a club from my neighbourhood I became a big fan.”

Javier got his first tattoo nine years ago, and the other one four years ago.

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“My most beautiful memory with the club was when, years ago, we went to Rosario central in a caravan and we won three-nil. It was a game for the promotion and going to this trip with everyone, following the team was an amazing memory I will never forget.”

“Once we beat Boca three-one as well, and that was really good,” he says laughing.

Leila – Banfield

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Leila Giménez, 24, has two tattoos from Banfield Football Club, her local team. The design of the second one is know as “El Taladro” from the southern area where she is from.

“I went with my mom and we tattooed ourselves together,” she said. “We promised to each other that if Banfield won the Copa Libertadores we would tattoo ourselves. And they won, when I was 18 years old.”

“I was born in Banfield and when I was 11 I moved to Flores,” she says. “I missed my hometown a lot and I got these tattoos mostly as a feeling of belonging to a certain place. It is like I identify myself to my neighbourhood, my home that made me the way I am now.

“My mum is not really ok with me and my sisters going to the stadium due to the dangers, so I didn’t go to the stadium when I was little. I go now that I am older even though it is expensive – I try to go whenever I can afford it.”

One of her most beautiful memories with Banfield is when the team won promotion into the first division. “All the neighbourhood was out in the street,” she says. “All my friends, my neighbours, my family we all went out together and celebrate.”

“At the stadium we all meet with the locals, that is what Banfield is beautiful for. It is smaller and everyone knows each other as one big family.”

Leila first tattoo is the logo of her favorite Rock Band and the colors of Banfield, green and white.

Leila first tattoo is the logo of her favorite Rock Band and the colors of Banfield, green and white.

 

For Leila too being a woman in the football world is not always easy. “It is hard to have your own opinion, they always say, ‘you don’t know anything shut your mouth! You are a girl what do you know about football?’ But I laugh at them because everyone can have an opinion, men and women it is the same,” she says.

Nowadays, Leila says he has lost a little bit of the passion for football she used to have as a teenager.

“Players don’t go and play for the passion of the club anymore, it is all about money,” she says.

“Playing with passion, playing as a team is what makes football great. Now it is very individualistic and there is competition between players. This lowers my love for football. What I would love is to go back to football from the era of a young Maradona, where players played for the love of the football shirt, as a team.”

What Leila loves most about football, what it mostly means for her, is sharing this passion with her dad.

“My dad is a very closed person and football is what unifies us, what we share together,” she says. “Watching a game together, going to the stadium together is the most beautiful thing for me, the thing I enjoy the most about football,” she says with emotion.

Pablo – Boca Juniors

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Pablo Miguel Blesa, 44, from La Plata had his tattoo done three years ago.

“It was a really important moment in my life,” he says. “I got divorced and I decided to tattoo the things that mean a lot to me: my ex wife, my two daughters, and all this linked to something that is timeless: the colours of Boca.”

Pablo’s passion for Boca started when he was 12. “In 1981, when Maradona was playing at Boca, I was listening to the football match commented by Victor Hugo Morales on the radio and was playing with my friends in front of the house at the same time,” he says.

When he was 14, a friend’s father took him to see his first match at Boca’s ‘La Bombonera’ stadium. “There I found my home, it is a time of your life where you are looking for an identity and I found mine in Boca’s stadium,” he says. “It felt like a new world for me and it changed me.”

“Now I go alone and I have my group of friends I met in the train from La Plata to Buenos Aires. This is also how the love for the team grows, now it does not matter that much if Boca win or lose, it doesn’t change my will to go to the stadium. What I am searching for besides the results is what is around the game.”

For Pablo, his best memories with Boca are the trips he made to follow the team.

“Once we went to a match Boca versus San Lorenzo in Buenos Aires on a Wednesday. The next Sunday Boca was playing in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. We left right after the match and did the three day journey by car,” he says.

“When I am in Boca’s stadium I am not just watching the game, I feel like I am a part of it,” he says. “I feel I have a role to play in every win and every lost, I am part of the show.”

“Now when I can I take my daughters and my nieces to the stadium to share this passion with them,” say Pablo. “The youngest of my girls is a fan of Boca too but as they are girls it is more complicated to take them to the stadium.”

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Hand of Pod: River and Boca Joint Top, and the Problem for Independiente


Hand Of Pod is a podcast dedicated to discussing the domestic football scene in Argentina, with the inevitable occasional digressions into the land of the continental cups and the national team.

In the 181st episode of Hand of Pod, Sam, English Dan, Andrés, and Peter look back on a weekend of action that left River Plate and Boca Juniors joint top of the table as they prepare to head into their clash at La Bombonera on the 3rd May (there are no matches this weekend). The two will also clash twice after that in the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores, but we’ll do a full preview of those matches next week; this time round we look at Racing and Independiente, who both drew their matches 0-0 last weekend, and consider some of the league’s less heralded heroes so far. This week’s history bit has Dan telling us about the time Alfredo Di Stéfano was kidnapped by a Venezuelan group of political protesters.

There’s no Mystic Sam this week, but as a team we’re predicting a River win over Huracán in Saturday’s Supercopa Argentina, and for Aldosivi to turn their 1-0 advantage with an hour to play into a win away to Arsenal when that match is finished (which is what Sam originally predicted for that game anyway), also on Saturday.

You can find out more about the team behind HOP here.

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Hand of Pod: Late goals, and Central’s 100% start ends…


Hand Of Pod is a podcast dedicated to discussing the domestic football scene in Argentina, with the inevitable occasional digressions into the land of the continental cups and the national team.

The 177th episode of Hand Of Pod sees Sam and Andrés discussing a weekend of Primera action that was notable for late goals deciding the outcomes of matches, and for Rosario Central’s perfect start to the campaign coming to an end with a draw away to the bottom club, Atlético de Rafaela (Central remain top, though). Argentinos Juniors’ unbeaten record came spectacularly undone, Aldosivi and Unión produced a 3-3 draw and Boca Juniors goalkeeper Agustín Orión is in hot water after breaking San Martín forward Carlos Bueno’s shin (though we say it was accidental). Perhaps most surprisingly of all, both Independiente and River Plate managed to keep clean sheets! All this and more awaits, though we’ve almost no discussion of Argentina’s upcoming internationals, since they’re only friendlies.

Mystic Sam’s seventh round predictions (last week: 6/15)
Quilmes v Sarmiento
Central v Colón
Olimpo v Atlético de Rafaela
Banfield v Huracán
San Lorenzo v Lanús
Crucero del Norte v Temperley
Belgrano v Newell’s
Boca v Estudiantes
Gimnasia v River
Godoy Cruz v Independiente
Racing v San Martín
Unión v Vélez
Arsenal v Aldosivi
Tigre v DyJ
Argentinos v Chicago

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Hand of Pod: Previewing the 2015 Monster Championship


Hand Of Pod is a podcast dedicated to discussing the domestic football scene in Argentina, with the inevitable occasional digressions into the land of the continental cups and the national team.

Hand Of Pod returns from the summer break with our first episode of 2015. Sam, Andrés, Peter and Gustavo preview Argentina’s controversial new 30-team top flight in this episode. Which teams have done best and worst in the transfer market, who’s already had some form of competitive action to get warmed up for the task ahead, and should Argentine sides be expected to make waves in this year’s Copa Libertadores? All these questions are answered, along with some more, probably.

Mystic Sam’s first round predictions:

Vélez v Aldosivi
Racing v Central
Gimnasia v Defensa y Justicia
San Lorenzo v Colón
Godoy Cruz v San Martín
Newell’s v Independiente
Banfield v Temperley
Crucero del Norte v Tigre
Quilmes v Lanús
Unión v Huracán
Boca v Olimpo
Argentinos v Atlético de Rafaela
Sarmiento v River
Arsenal v Estudiantes
Belgrano v Nueva Chicago

You can find out more about the team behind HOP here.

 

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Police Raid Football Clubs Over Corruption Claims


Futbol para todos logoTwenty-five first and second division teams were raided by the Federal Police in Buenos Aires, Santa Fé, Córdoba, San Juan, and Mendoza.

The raids were ordered by Judge María Servini de Cubría, who is investigating alleged irregularities in the use of public funds transferred by the state to the clubs within the ‘Fútbol Para Todos’ programme. The police seized the ledgers of the clubs that have been involved in the programme for at least a year, except for those of San Lorenzo, as the club’s administrative offices are not in its headquarters.

The books will be analysed by experts from the Supreme Court, at the judge’s request, which will look at each club’s income and expenditure related to Fútbol Para Todos since 2009.

The case was opened after legislator Graciela Ocaña filed a lawsuit in which she claimed that, despite the funds transferred by the state to the clubs, their financial situation did not improve. The prosecutor has charged Chief of Cabinet Jorge Capitanich and his predecessors Juan Manuel Abal Medina and Aníbal Fernández. AFA President Julio Grondona, who died earlier this year, had also been charged.

The clubs raided were River Plate, Boca Juniors, Argentinos Juniors, All Boys, San Lorenzo, Vélez Sarsfield, and Huracán in the city of Buenos Aires; Racing, Independiente, Lanús, Banfield, Olimpo, Tigre, Arsenal, Quilmes, Estudiantes, and Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata in the province of Buenos Aires; Rosario Central, Newell’s, Atlético Rafaela, Colón, and Unión in Santa Fé; San Martín in San Juan; Belgrano in Córdoba, and Godoy Cruz in Mendoza.

On 5th August, AFA’s headquarters were also raided in search of evidence supporting the case.

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AFA President Julio Grondona Dies


AFA President Julio Grondona died today (photo: Wikipedia)

AFA President Julio Grondona died today (photo: Wikipedia)

The president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) Julio Humberto Grondona died today of a heart condition. He was 82 and had been AFA president for the last 35 years.

Grondona was admitted to a private clinic in Buenos Aires this morning, where he underwent open heart surgery due to an aneurysm in the aorta. However, the surgery was unsuccessful and he passed away at 12.50pm.

AFA established seven days of mourning for the loss of its president, causing the beginning of football championship, due to start this weekend, to be delayed by a week. The organisation also announced that the press conference by the coach of the national squad, Alejandro Sabella, which was scheduled for this afternoon, has been suspended. Sabella was expected to formally announce his resignation today.

Grondona became president of AFA in 1979, and a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee in 1988. He was also FIFA’s vice-president.

He was re-elected nine times as head of AFA, the latest in October 2011. He was accused of having been appointed in his post by the military dictatorship ruling the country at the time, however he said on his defence that “I was elected by the clubs, not by Admiral [Carlos Alberto] Lacoste [organiser of the 1978 World Cup].”

During his tenure, the Argentine football team won a world championship, two Olympic gold medals, and six youth championships. He was known for his strong leadership and had been accused in several occasions of fraud and corruption.

AFA Vice-President Luis Segura, recently involved in a scandal related to irregular sales of World Cup tickets, is expected to remain as acting president until 2015.

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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.

 

Posted in Life & Style, SportComments (2)

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.

 

Posted in News From Argentina, Round Ups ArgentinaComments (1)

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As a possible ‪Grexit‬ looms in the old continent, we revisit Marc Rogers' article comparing Greece's current situation to Argentina's own 2001-2 crisis.

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