Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
WEEKEND(ish) RESULTS: Sunday Nov 01: Gimnasia La Plata 2-2 San Lorenzo, Chacarita Juniors 2-2 Argentinos Juniors, River Plate 0-1 Lanús, Rosario Central 2-1 Boca Juniors, Arsenal 1-0 Independiente. Saturday Oct 31: Vélez Sársfield 2-0 Godoy Cruz, Racing Club 4-0 Atlético Tucumán.
Apertura 09 is a particularly schizophrenic and unpredictable affair.
There is no clear-cut favourite to win the title, and 10 of the 20 top-flight teams have been top of the table at some point.
The main reason for this is Fútbol Para Todos, which essentially translates as an interminable relay of matches free on TV.
It is also the reason why this particular round-up falls some way short of its ambition to, well, round up the weekend’s activity.
There simply aren’t enough prime-time hours in the weekend to play the round back-to-back, so as a result round 12 still has two more days to run.
A total lack of suspense and tension, a loss of interest in proceedings, and running out of excuses to watch football are just some of the consequences of Fútbol Para Todos, but there is another one which is upsetting Lanús coach Luís Zubeldía.
Lanús have been the darlings of Argentine football for some time now – they play good football, regularly produce brilliant young players, and the club is well-organised (i.e. unlike most Argentinian outfits, they don’t have a monstrous debt).
But three defeats this season and a current position of 11th mean the club has come in for criticism. Zubeldía isn’t happy.
"There is too much mediocrity in the analysis of football," declared the lank-haired coach.
"We live in an uneducated society, which only analyses things from an emotional point of view and that infects the players," he said, blaming his side’s not-as-good-as-expected results on ex-footballers talking nonsense at half-time.
"As the coach I want my players to see the reality, which is that they are playing well. We have to keep our heads, and rise above any vulgar criticism."
Zubeldía, who has the best record of any coach currently working in Argentina, feels that his team has come under unfair criticism.
Beating River Plate 1-0 at the Monumental went some way to vindicating his decisions.
In usual circumstances, beating River would be considered quite a scalp, but these are not usual circumstances, and River Plate had bigger things to worry about than a league game.
Ariel Ortega begged his coach not to play him in the game against Lanús, and left the team’s hotel on Friday night.
Argie Bargy can understand anyone not wanting to be personally involved or linked with the unmitigated disaster which is River Plate this season.
But in the case of Ortega it is more about the Little Donkey’s state of mind than personal embarrassment.
Ortega could retire from football this week, having descended into another bout of depression.
If the weekend’s performance is anything to go by, he won’t be the only veteran considering calling it a day.
"The duck drowns in the Arroyito," went Crítica’s headline after Roberto ‘Pato’ Abbondanzieri was single-handedly responsible for Boca’s defeat, having been nowhere near either of Rosario Central’s goals.
Things had been going swimmingly for the Duck: having saved a penalty in the Superclásico, he then kept his first clean sheet of the season against Chacarita...
But two more trademark errors have the fans and journalists alike suggesting that at the age of 37, his time could be up.
At least if Ortega or Abbondanzieri retire and decide they miss football, all they have to do is turn on the TV.
There’ll probably be a game on.
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