Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
Clubs on strike, AFA unilaterally ripping up the long-standing contract for TV rights that had their signature on the dotted line, Fútbol para Todos broadcasting every single top flight match live on TV, refereeing scandals, not one of the Big Five qualifying for the Libertadores, Diego…
Here’s the best and worst from the Apertura ’09 in Argentina.
Team of the Year Award: Banfield
Starting out as a cricket club may not have helped their quest to win the football league title, but 113 years after an English accountant and cattle exporter decided their barrio needed a sports club, Banfield were kings of the castle.
Having the league’s top goalscorer, best defence and fewest defeats, plus winning their clásico, point to one thing – undisputed champions.
Oh, and they won the fair play award to boot (or not to boot).
The Bilardo/Menotti Award for Best Coach: Diego Armando Maradona
This one’s gone to the national team coach rather than a club coach. And no, it's no joke.
Anyone who doesn’t like this choice can do what the little big man himself told journalists to do in Uruguay a few months back.
Julio César Falcioni would have won the domestic prize for leading Banfield to the league title, but everything points to Diego.
Losing 6-1 to Bolivia, outrageous insults to his critics, trying out more players than Paris Hilton, his power struggle with Bilardo…
It’s been exactly what we expected from Maradona The Coach – unpredictable and compulsive viewing.
Most importantly, he did his job: a misfiring and drab Argentina side qualified for the World Cup. Can’t ask for more.
Best Goal: Martín Palermo vs Vélez
When it came to tickling this blogger’s ribs, none did the trick as much as Gastón Aguirre’s finish a week ago.
Estudiantes showed they may not be completely outclassed by Barcelona this weekend when they produced a tidy 16-pass build up to a goal against Vélez, and of course there were the usual array of individual efforts, bicycle kicks, volleys, and piledrivers etc.
But then, you see those everywhere. What you don’t see are 40-yard headers.
Martín Palmero, we salute you.
The Tarnished Reputation Award: referees
The Sticking By His Principles award: Ángel Cappa
Given the nature of the sport there were few contenders for this award, but the former Huracán coach was the standout contender, all the same.
Despite having his team dismantled before his very eyes just months after being robbed of the Clausura back in June, Cappa stuck to his philosophical guns.
Life was always going to be harder without the likes of Javier Pastore and Matías De Federico, but Cappa battled on and stayed true to the tiki tiki.
Sadly, Huracán sold all the players capable of playing in that system.
The I Hate Fútbol Para Todos The Most Award: TyC Sports
Tough call this one, with taxi drivers and the former rights holders battling it out for gold.
Most fans agree that although the quality of the coverage is considerably worse, being able to see all the games live on TV compensates seeing fewer replays of the vast and original range of fouling techniques with which Rolando Schiavi delights Newell’s fans every weekend.
TyC win, with one of their presenters confirming just the other day that there are no sour grapes:
"Is it part of their contract that Fútbol Para Todos commentators must not get a single name right during a game?"
Worst Player of the Season Award: Cristián Fabbiani
Never has the nickname 'Tank' been more appropriate.
Unfortunately for River Plate fans, and indeed his own career, Fabbiani’s size is not thanks to CR9-esque hours in the gym, but rather hours at the dinner table.
Club legend Marcelo Gallardo said the team would have scored 15 goals more if they’d had a ‘real’ centre forward, instead of Fabbiani.
"Right now a club could buy me for a Coca-Cola," said the striker [sic], confusing his response to a journalist’s transfer-fee question with his order to a nearby waiter.
Most Ridiculous Publicity Stunt Award: Racing/Lothar Matthaus
Irate supporters? No money? Precariously close to relegation? No light at the end of the proverbial tunnel?
The Racing Club board of directors clearly thought bringing in an opinionated no-nonsense World Cup winner as coach, who would be accompanied by his beautiful wife too, would sort out the club’s difficulties.
He’s German? So what?!
One problem. Matthaus found out what Racing failed to tell him (word has it that Martín Demichelis gave him a crash course in Racing and Argentine football’s recent history) and he sent the club a txt msg to say danke, but nein danke.
The Player Most Inclined to Indulge in Some Argie Bargy Award: Sebastián Peratta
The Newell’s keeper was one of the main reasons the Rosarinos were in the title race this year.
Peratta is also a mixed-zone reporter’s dream, and held court after most games with his own uncompromising and myopic take on decisions that involved his side.
The Most in Need of a Kick up the Culo Award: Tigre
A year ago, Tigre fought it out in the historic title play-off. Since then, they have clawed their way down to the depths of last place in the division.
Diego Cagna, singled out as one of the most talented young coaches in the country, was both the mastermind of the success a year ago, and the architect of the subsequent decline.
"My time here is up," he said.
Indeed. The Matador were the worst team in the Apertura, losing 15 of their 19 games and conceding 42 goals in the process.
The Pull Your Socks Up Award: The Big Five
River, Boca, San Lorenzo, Independiente and Racing will all be watching the Libertadores from the comfort of their living rooms next year.
That’s all five of the biggest teams in the country managing to swerve the six – SIX! – berths that Argentina have for the South American Shampions League.
Listing some of the reasons that they are all in this mess could land us several lawsuits, so we’ll leave it there for now.
Bring on the Clausura...
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"Most fans agree that although the quality of the coverage is considerably worse, being able to see all the games live on TV compensates seeing fewer replays of the vast and original range of fouling techniques with which Rolando Schiavi delights Newell’s fans every weekend."
As one of those Newell's fans, all I have to say is: if Schiavi is such a hack, why do rumors of Boca Jrs wanting him back crop up every during transfer window?
What's the take in Argentina on the Estudiantes v. Barca Club in the Club World Cup final? Do they even care?
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