Newcomer to Argentine football, Harry Lawes explains what has drawn him to the often chaotic Primera División and why he has no intention of stopping anytime soon….
By Harry Lawes @HarryLawes
Whenever someone asks what your plans are for the evening, and you respond that you’re planning on spending your Saturday night watching Patronato v Estudiantes, you are inevitably met with a look of shock: ‘Why would you do that when you could be sampling the delights of the town? Don’t you watch enough football already?’
Unless you’ve witnessed the joy of seeing Lisandro López net a last-minute bicycle kick in the Clásico de Avellaneda or the despair of the Renzo Spinaci equalizer to condemn Argentinos Juniors to relegation, it is understandable to question why one would stay up late to watch the latest installment of the Primera División on some dodgy online stream. However, this league has so much to offer and is so underappreciated by so many.
Sergio Agüero. Juan Román Riquelme. Diego Maradona. These are but a few of the names to have graced the Primera División and it is impossible to list all the world-class talent that Argentina has produced.
The technical ability of the players that the nation churns out is unquestionable, and it is no surprise that so many Argentinians are able to compete with the world’s best in Europe.
If nothing else, it is immensely satisfying to be able to finally glimpse in the flesh that young attacking midfielder you signed for next to nothing for Liverpool on your Football Manager ‘14 career.
As well as the players, you may well have noticed how many of the world’s top coaches hail from Argentina. Diego Simeone, Mauricio Pochettino and Gerardo Martino are household names to any keen football fan, and this reflects the quality of coaching in Argentina.
What is perhaps most interesting about the coaching though is the constant conflict between the more offensive, pressing style of play of the Bielsistas and the counter-attacking style of those like Simeone. This dates back decades, when there was a famous contrast between the supporters of César Luis Menotti who famously cast off the shackles of anti-futbol to bring Argentina the 1978 World Cup and those of Carlos Bilardo whose win-at-any-cost mentality from Osvaldo Zubeldía’s Estudiantes team won the 1986 World Cup, reliant on the attacking brilliance of a certain Diego Maradona.
It is fascinating to watch these contrasting footballing philosophies clash, and the final of this year’s championship showcased exactly that, where Pablo Guede’s expansive San Lorenzo side were ultimately undone by the brilliant counter-attacking of Jorge Almirón’s Lanús.
With the amount of teams who seem determined to concentrate all their efforts in attack and all but ignore defending, there is an endless supply of incredibly entertaining games, the highlight of this year being the 6-3 thriller between Atletico de Rafaela and Racing.
Perhaps the thing that strikes you most when you watch Argentine football is the fans. The stadiums are always full of noise and colour and are quite a spectacle by themselves.
Unfortunately this passion does sometimes boil over and there is still a ban on away fans in Argentina, but most of the time it is just amazing.
When Carlos Tevez returned to Boca Juniors last season, 10 years after he left, 40,000 fans turned up at La Bombonera just for his presentation. There wasn’t even a match and so many still turned up just to finally see their hero again.
Atlético Tucumán have been perhaps the most impressive supporters this year, making a really positive mark on the Primera División in their first season since being promoted. Scenes such as these are common at the Estadio Monumental José Fierro, and have enabled them to turn their home ground into quite a fortress.
It’s unpredictability is another great thing about the Primera División; upsets are common and it is almost impossible to predict the results, except before Crucero del Norte were relegated.
El Decano are one such example who were just one result away from the Copa Libertadores playoff in their first season since being promoted. The Big 5 traditionally prioritise the Libertadores over the league, which means that there is plenty of scope of surprises.
With the exception of the Premier League, most European leagues have been dominated by a single club or a very elite group of clubs in recent years. Barcelona, Bayern Munich, PSG and Juventus have all virtually monoplised their league titles recently, but this doesn’t happen in the Primer División.
Since 2009, in the various forms the league has taken (one thing to note about Argentina is that the administration is hugely chaotic and there is often as much entertainment in the boardroom as on the pitch), there have been over 10 different winners.
These are just a few of the reasons that I have fallen in love with football Argentino, but I’m sure every other fan can tell you many, many more reasons of why you’re mad not to follow such an enthralling, exhilarating league.
You can follow Harry on Twitter @HarryLawes and if you also want to write for Golazo then feel free to use the CONTACT US page to drop us a line.