Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
"God is everywhere, but his office is in Buenos Aires," goes the popular porteño phrase used by locals to proudly point out the capital’s regional and national supremacy.
Perhaps it is with this in mind that the two Avellaneda giants, Independiente and Racing, decided that it was the week to fight back.
As the only two of the Big Five not within city limits, and as the two grandes with the longest wait without a league title, action had to be taken.
Avellaneda is only just outside the capital, but they couldn’t let the jumped-up porteños steal the limelight all the time.
In the case of Independiente it has been a long time coming, but according to the club it is worth the wait – their brand new stadium is ready.
Supposedly modelled on Old Trafford, with a capacity that will reach 43,000, the brand new Libertadores de America takes its name after the club’s finest hour – becoming the first Argentine club to win the continental competition, the Libertadores.
It’s been a tough 1,055 days since they last played at home.
Independiente have travelled to Vélez, to Lanús, to Huracán, and just across the way to Racing’s ground to play their 'home' games.
Ground-sharing at Racing’s Cilindro was particularly controversial.
When it comes to disputes with your neighbours that have been left to fester for years, trying cohabitation for a few months isn’t the most orthodox way of resolving the issue.
So it was that Rodolfo Molina successfully campaigned to be the Academy’s president on the back of the promise that Independiente would not be allowed to ground share while they completed work on their new stadium.
Not content with that gesture and having forced Independiente to look elsewhere for shelter, the Racing barra brava barged into the Libertadores de America yesterday morning just 24 hours before the big fiesta, and threw Racing-blue paint everywhere.
The gesture can only be viewed as a house-warming gift in the form of interior design suggestions.
That minor blip in security forgotten, the party will last long at Independiente’s new stadium.
It doesn’t matter that they’ve got a tough first game against league leaders Colón. The odyssey is over and the Rojo are home.
Seeing their neighbours with a brand-new stadium and doing well in the league isn’t exactly helping the malaise at Racing.
Halfway through Round 11, the Academy have gone the whole season without a win.
In one of the more eccentric and bizarre decisions, Racing proudly announced that German legend Lothar Matthaus was going to take over as coach.
The fact that he had little coaching experience was of secondary importance - when did a lack of experience prevent a legendary player landing a high-profile coaching job in Argentina?!
Of primary importance to Lothar was what the fourth Mrs Matthaus thought of a move to the southern hemisphere.
At the age of 22, she was concerned that a move to Buenos Aires could hinder her flourishing modelling career.
Lothar said he’d travel to Argentina to have a look around, see if Mrs Matthaus was happy and then make his decision.
Racing were more than happy to play along with this given that they’d secured the $900,000, the armour-plated Mercedes Benz and the five-star hotel he requested.
How could he refuse?
Just hours from boarding a Buenos Aires-bound flight in Hamburg, however, Lothar sent a quick text message to his agent.
His agent then called Molina, waking up Racing’s president at 7am with the news that, in fact, very sorry, but Lothar’s not coming.
The Matthaus story will sit alongside the ‘Edgar Davids to Boca’, the ‘Edgar Davids to River’, the ‘Ronaldinho to Boca’ and the ‘Bernd Schuster to coach Boca’ stories - one big publicity stunt.
The office hasn’t moved to Avellaneda.
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