The last 10 days has seen a complete paradigm shift in Argentine football, the likes of which anyone in Argentina or anyone who holds an interest in Argentine football, did not think they would see anytime soon. The resignation of national team boss, Alejandro Sabella was not unexpected but the shock of AFA President, Julio Grondona’s death was of seismic proportions and leaves Argentine football at a crossroads.
Julio Grondona’s reign as President of AFA stretches back to 1979 and without speaking ill of the dead, it is safe to say that his death has not been mourned particularly by the majority of Argentine football fans.
Coming to power a year after Argentina’s World Cup triumph in 1978, Grondona oversaw another victory in 1986 but the past 24 years has been a borderline failure and certainly the Primera División has suffered hugely. Odd financial dealings and a lenient view on the rise of the barra bravas have led to a huge number of deaths directly linked to football and Grondona must be held accountable for all this.
So in the wake of Julio Grondona’s death, Argentine football finds itself in uncertain waters. Temporary solutions have been made but the cloud of uncertainty will remain deep into 2015. With several of Grondona’s schemes already in place and little time to act, AFA find themselves somewhat hand-tied and so the legacy of Grondona lives on.
With the 7 days of mourning over at AFA HQ in Buenos Aires, the doors to Viamonte 1366 reopened and the executive committee set to work.
AFA Vice-President and President of Argentinos Juniors, Luís Segura will be the interim President as expected but what was announced today by AFA spokesman, Ernesto Cherquis Bialo is that this will run until the end of what would have been Grondona’s current term in October 2015.
Previously it was thought that this interim basis would only be until October this year but the board have voted “unanimously” to stick with Segura until the end of Grondona’s mandate.
Cherquis told reporters “The decision was passed without objections, questioning or doubts. The AFA has a president that will continue in charge until the date that Grondona would have stayed, October 2015.”
All this talk of unanimous votes already sounds very Grondonian given that all the hair-brained schemes of the late leader were met with the same firm backing.
Segura is understood to not be interested in becoming AFA President on a more permanent basis but for the next 14 months, the Argentinos Juniors President will be in the hot seat. Given that Segura was caught up in a scandal during the World Cup in Brazil over the resale of AFA tickets that ended up in the hands of travelling barra brava members, perhaps he is an obvious candidate to take the baton.
It should also be noted that this also includes the FIFA Vice-Presidency as Argentina supply the CONMEBOL seat regardless of Grondona, and this automatically now falls to Segura.
With Grondona being in charge since 1979, this is slightly uncharted territory for AFA but under Segura a dramatic change would come as a surprise. Beyond Segura? Who knows. Former Boca President and current Head of the Government of Buenos Aires, Maurico Macri has admitted “In the future, I would like to be AFA President.” That discussion can wait until October 2015.
This brings us to the more pressing matter of replacing Alejandro Sabella as national team coach. Grondona’s unexpected death obviously derailed this process momentarily but it is now believed that the committee will meet with the first choice, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino on Thursday.
If reports are correct, Julio Grondona’s initial choice was Atlético Madrid manager, Diego Simeone but with 44-year-old still near the start of his managerial career, El Cholo felt it was not the right time. This led Grondona to the decision that Martino would be the best candidate, particularly given his close relationship with Lionel Messi.
The AFA appear willing to honour Grondona’s wish and will now discuss the position with Martino this week. The former Barcelona boss certainly fits the bill and his tenure in Spain should not be held against him given his fine work with Newell’s Old Boys and Paraguay.
If discussions go according to plan, Martino will be named manager as soon as possible given that Argentina play Germany in a friendly next month and preparations must get underway for the Copa América in 2015. In the event, Martino declines the offer, San Lorenzo manager, Edgardo Bauza is said to be the AFA ‘Plan B.’
Of course this so far is the relatively straight-forward part. This weekend sees the start of the Argentine Primera División and Grondona’s last diabolical scheme. The Torneo Transición followed by the dreaded 30-team-year-long Primera starting in February was already “unanimously” agreed upon some months ago. It is obviously too late to scrap this altogether but an already hazy plan is now even more unclear.
AFA have announced that we will indeed kick off the Torneo Transición this weekend but this could be followed by another transition tournament in 2015 but this time with the additional 10 sides from the Nacional B. Then the previously planned, 30-team league will start officially midway through 2015 and run through until May 2016.
There are obviously so many problems with this proposal, aside the fact that a 30-team league is utterly ridiculous, that I don’t really feel the need to go into that much detail. Frankly, if you disagree you should probably be applying for a job at the AFA.
Just to add to the drama, the AFA headquarters was raided yesterday as part of an investigation into how the television money was being shared out to the clubs. ‘Futbol para todos’ was one of Grondona’s masterplans but it appears not everyone has been getting their fair share of the pie.
This of course is no surprise, Grondona was caught admitting as much in 2011, when he let slip that by holding back TV money he could call in favours from clubs when needed. The raid coming one week after the death of Julio Grondona appears a little coincidental and the fact that even high-ranking government officials are under investigation may give some insight into the power wielded by Don Julio.
For now it appears business as usual at AFA and the legacy of Grondona still continues. His Torneo Transición kicks off on Friday despite increased levels of uncertainty. There will be no simple fix to some of the larger issues in Argentine football and at least for another year, more drama and chaos is expected.