Thursday evening in Ezeiza was supposed to be a new era of the Argentine Football Association with a first democratic vote in 36 years to elect a new president. Interim president, Luís Segura, who took charge after the death of Julio Grondona, was running against Marcelo Tinelli and the 75 members assembled to decide which would lead the AFA into the future. The evening, however, ended in farce when the 75 votes were counted and it resulted in a 38-38 draw – with certain members having already left they were unable to vote again and the election has now been postponed.
Argentine football and South American football in general has been littered with controversy for some time but Thursday was a particularly embarrassing new chapter. On the same day that the FIFA corruption scandal saw 16 officials across the region charged, the AFA failed to oversee what should have been a fairly simple electoral process.
It was little surprise that Julio Grondona’s name featured prominently in FIFA’s investigation into football corruption; the godfather of the Argentine football association held power from 1979 until his death last year and in all that time, he ran unchallenged as president by way of votes being cast by a show of hands. Any dissenting voices knew that opposing Grondona would be suicidal and so, as he himself had promised, the only way he would leave the AFA was in a coffin.
This prophecy proved correct but in light of these events, Thursday’s balloted election was viewed as a positive step towards a more democratic and transparent AFA. The result was as chaotic and murker as ever.
In the build-up to the election, there had been reports that money had been offered to certain club officials in return for votes and the president of Primera C club, Excursionitas had been threatened by members of the barra brava after alligning himself with Tinelli.
Needless to say both parties have denied any knowledge or involvement but the cloud of corruption and violence appears inescapable from Argentine football.
If these charges were not enough, AFA managed to show its incompetence during the process. After tallying up the votes, it was revealed that somehow the 75 members had produced a 38-38 tie. With no way to resolve this on the same evening after certain people had already left, the AFA was left to announce that they will need to reschedule or even find another solution.
Segura told the assembled members and reporters: “We will call a new election if it has to be done [but] we will try to follow a path that maybe this error was a message for all of us to analyse forming one common ticket.”
“If that doesn’t work we’ll call [another] election. This is disconcerting and even embarrassing.”
It is rather sad and worrying that the failure to complete this successfully has now led to the suggestion that the idea of an election will be abandoned and perhaps Segura and Tinelli will find a way to work together.
Whoever is finally elected president already has a huge task ahead of them between the issue of football violence, the development and continued investment in grass roots football and the financial difficulties faced by Argentine football. Thursday evening’s debacle illustrates the incompetence in the AFA that also needs to be addressed.