JUNIN, Argentina, May 6 (Reuters) - Basing success as a
football club on a good youth scheme is not exclusively the
domain of a team such as Barcelona or Boca Juniors.
Sarmiento, top of Argentina's third-tier Primera B, serve as
an example of how a team should be run if their ambition is to
recover the place in the top flight they once enjoyed.
At a time when the biggest clubs in the country, Boca and
arch-rivals River Plate, have lost their way because they turned
their backs on their once golden youth schemes, Sarmiento are a
beacon of common sense.
Sarmiento, from the farming city of Junin deep in the pampas
260 km west of Buenos Aires, are one of hundreds of clubs that
sprang up during the expansion of the railways early last
century. They celebrate their centenary next year.
Coach Mario Finarolli, who spoke to Reuters at his home in
central Junin, said a simple truth of the pampas illustrated
Sarmiento's position as they pursue their dream of promotion to
the second-tier Nacional B.
"In Junin, when there's a storm, the first trees to fall are
the eucalyptus because they have few roots," he said.
"In football it's the same, if there are no roots, a base to
carry through a project, things get very hard," said Finarolli,
who knows a bit about building, having started architectural
studies at university in Buenos Aires in the 1970s before opting
full-time for football.
Sarmiento have led the promotion race all season, their best
since they played in the top flight in the early 1980s, going on
a 28-match unbeaten run that ended recently although they have
clung to first place.
The 57-year-old Finarolli is well aware Sarmiento's
promotion dream could be dashed at the end of a long, gruelling
season with only the Primera B champions going up automatically
and chances of a second team earning promotion stacked heavily
"In the Nacional B if you have a good campaign, you have
four chances of being promoted (to the first division).
"Here (in the Primera B) no, here you have one promotion and
after that there's a four-team playoff and if you win that you
can play another (playoff) against a team from the Nacional B
...who usually win it."
There is no away goals rule and no penalties so if the
play-off is drawn the Nacional B team retain their status.
Finarolli, speaking in the dining room of the Spanish style
house which he designed himself in a quiet cul-de-sac, said
succeeding in the Primera B was a tough struggle.
"It's very complicated, half the pitches are not good,
there's the refereeing issue...lots of things come together so
even if you have a good team there's nothing to guarantee you'll
The second tier brings huge advantages, however.
"In the Nacional B you have more expenses because you travel
a lot more but also much more revenue because of television,
"You're much closer to the A (division), it's much easier to
go up from the Nacional B to the A."
Finarolli is a former striker who emerged at River Plate and
played for Sarmiento after three years in Spain with Elche and a
season at Argentinos Juniors with the teenage Diego Maradona. He
has made Junin his home and has had several spells as their
He said a new, young and committed board of directors had
transformed the club, in contrast to administrations that so
often bled Argentine clubs of their funds through mismanagement
"They need to consolidate it all with promotion to a higher
division where income would be much greater," he said.
"Every year Sarmiento used to have the problem of going to
Buenos Aires to find 10 to 12 players, which means 10 to 12
salaries, 10 to 12 houses and come the end of the year, of those
10 or 12, maybe one or two would stay.
"This season we went to get six...the previous year it was
four. Before, every year we had a different team. Now the
majority (of the players) are from Junin."
It might be fitting that in a year when Maradona's Argentina
go in search of the country's third World Cup, the club that
unearthed Daniel Passarella, who captained them to their first
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