Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
Given that Banfield are on the verge of winning their first league title in 113 years, you'd have thought that Julio César Falcioni would be in good spirits.
The club may not be used to winning titles but Falcioni knows what success tastes like – he was part of the legendary Colombian side America de Cali that won five league titles in the 1980s.
Given that his side grabbed the winner over Tigre on Wednesday night with just five minutes remaining to keep them top of the table, you’d expect there’d be a sense of elation after the dramatic, nail-biting end to the game.
And given that his centre-back Victor López, whose header won the match, was offside when he scored, you’d have thought that Falcioni would keep quiet about the quality of decision-making by the men in charge.
All in all, most were expecting a jubilant and elated Falcioni in the post-match press conference, and a Falcioni who avoided mentioning the referee.
"They didn’t even want to give us corners today!" complained the Banfield coach.
"And I’m saying this now so that it’s not after a game we lose and people say I’m a bad loser."
Outside the press conference, the Drill’s supporters were euphoric and partying hard. They’d just seen their side win their 12th game in 18.
Going into the final weekend of the season, they have a two-point lead over fellow title-challengers Newell’s.
And 113 years is a long time. The best they have ever done is finish second – in 1951 and 2005. These are high times for the club.
Falcioni is fully aware of the achievement he is 90 minutes away from completing, but he is convinced that something’s afoot.
He believes the powers that be are plotting for Newell’s to win the league.
The first journalist to put a question to him confirmed that the interview was being broadcast live on the said journalist’s channel.
"Well, if we’re live, I’m going to make the most of it so nobody edits me," began Falcioni, as producers gulped and pulled at their shirt collars.
"I’m tired of people always attacking Banfield. The club has produced some of the best players in Argentina in recent years.
"We have 41 points [from a possible 54]. We have the best defence in the league. And all of a sudden strange things start happening.
"One of Newell’s players pushed the other team’s coach after a game and nothing happened. When there was a foul for their winner against Vélez, nobody said anything.
"They’ve had the same ref for three games in 30 days and nobody says anything. But then they complain and the referee for our game is changed.
"If there’s a order for Rosario [to win], let me know."
Banfield, despite their coach’s complaints, are "70% champions", as Olé’s front page today declares.
All they have to do is beat Boca at the Bombonera on Sunday and the title is theirs.
Usually, this would be something of a proposition. This season, it is anything but a proposition.
Boca are 11th, with a side which might euphemistically describe itself in a lonely-hearts ad as "mature."
Furthermore, iconic centre-forward Martin Palermo hasn’t scored in 741 minutes of competitive action. He’s not doing too well in training either.
Boca are used to title celebrations, making them the perfect hosts for what should be the party Banfield have waited two centuries to enjoy.
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