Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
Argentine sports presenters are always on the phone.
This isn't information gleaned from rubbing shoulders with them in mixed zones, nor from trying to hold a conversation with one of them, nor is it an observation made while frequenting the same expensive restaurants and clubs as the well-known faces from TV. No, this is information free to anyone who forms part of the midday football chat show-viewing public.
The following scenario is what tends to happen. A debate over a solitary offside decision from the weekend kicks off the show at the top of the hour. As the argument and shouting over the decision enters the second half hour block, any number of the pundits on the show can be seen tapping away at their mobile phones.
Often they’ll break up the debate over the centre-forward’s exact position on the pitch. “Hold it, just got a text message. It’s from River/Boca/Independiente/whoever. Big news. Get this…”
And so it is that the viewers have a sense that they’re privy to reliable, up-to-date, insider information, thanks to their midday football chat show of choice (there are several to choose from, which perhaps explains this phenomenon of ostentatious texting in the first place).
So far so good. That is until Boca Juniors sporting director Carlos Bianchi comes out and says that the whole fuss being kicked up about his club is, in fact, a load of porkies.
Contrary to reports, the biggest club in the country hasn’t just had to convince its coach not to resign, everything is fine (could be better, but fine), and nobody at the club understands why everybody else is talking about these ‘stupid things.’
In Bianchi-speak, ‘everybody’ is the journalists, and ‘stupid things’ is the news that Alfio ‘Coco’ Basile resigned as Boca’s coach on Sunday night.
After losing at home to Godoy Cruz, Alfio went to a swanky hotel and met with a couple of club’s vice-presidents, sporting director Bianchi, and his son, Alfito. (Yes, in plain English, Basile is Alf. His son? Alfie.)
Outside the hotel, reporters were on their phones, receiving text messages, making calls, busy discovering that Basile had resigned. ‘It was the responsibility of the press,’ wrote Olé, using the opinion section to justify the mobile phone bill to the accounts department, ‘to know if the dead had stopped breathing.’
“We talked about football, nothing else,’ Bianchi would later claim. ‘We talked about why things are going wrong. That’s all.”
So despite the reports, there was no resignation. Nothing happened here. Basile is still alive.
Whatever did happen, Basile will probably still feel like there’s not much life left at Boca. Looking at the plight of River Plate won’t help the gravel-voiced coach and alleged whisky connoisseur.
The team are playing badly. Basile had promised to return from the preseason European tour with a fixed starting XI, but for now he doesn’t even have a fixed back four.
A quick peek at the upcoming games won’t help his mood, either. Next Saturday his side travel down to La Plata to take on the table-topping, South America-conquering Estudiantes. The following week it’s current champions Vélez visiting the Bombonera.
For these two games, Basile will be without the man he considers central to his team – the playmaker, chirpy Juan Román Riquelme.
There will be no left-back Morel either, although that’s probably not a bad thing. There's also no Ricardo Noir, as the striker ruptured ligaments when shoved into the advertising boards at the weekend.
The outlook is bleak.
Put into context, this is a club that was crowned league champions eight months ago. Over the past decade Boca have won 18 trophies. Some say they're the most supported team in South America.
In Basile’s first spell at the club, he won five trophies in the five tournaments his team took part in. Right now Boca are 13th in the league, out of the Sudamericana and with a real possibility of not qualifying for the Libertadores.
So, Basile is staying at Boca. He never left. If he were to leave, is Bianchi, the sporting director, planning a return to the dugout at some stage? After all, the Viceroy was the ubersuccessful coach at Boca not so long ago… ‘The coach in me is having a siesta,’ said the Larry David look-alike.
The saga will continue. But by the creed of Bianchi, don’t believe everything you read in the press, and especially don’t believe what you see on TV.
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