Argentina without football starts to worry Maradona
Diego Maradona is a worried man, with no football in Argentina and less than a month to go before their critical World Cup qualifier against a strong Brazilian side.
A debt crisis has put an indefinite hold on the 2009/10 season which was scheduled to start at the end of next week.
“I’m worried that the football isn’t starting, that people are not reaching agreement, that Julio (Argentine Football Association president Grondona) isn’t achieving his objectives, because I want to see the players on the pitches,” Maradona said.
“This country without football is dramatic.”
Only a quarter of Maradona’s squad play their club football in Argentina but he is constantly on the look out for players to draft in and has lost central defender Martin Demichelis of Bayern Munich to injury.
Juan Sebastian Veron, who does play in Argentina for Estudiantes, is nursing an injury, and so is Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez.
What worries other leaders hoping for a resolution to the debt crisis is that some clubs are nevertheless on an expensive recruitment drive.
The tournament, they have said, will only start when clubs, and in particular seven of the biggest in the country — River Plate, Independiente, Racing Club, San Lorenzo, Huracan, Rosario Central and Newell’s Old Boys — have put their financial house in order.
However, San Lorenzo have offered midfielder Leandro Romagnoli, who left Sporting of Portugal on Wednesday, a two-year deal worth $2 million, according to media reports on Thursday.
Argentina’s professional clubs owe the taxman a combined 300 million Argentine pesos, first and second division sides owe the AFA around 40 million pesos and a large numbers of players are demanding pay owed to them from months back.
Yet Independiente are offering San Lorenzo $1 million for striker Andres Silvera and Racing Club $1 million to the same club for goalkeeper Agustin Orion.
“There are teams that go out to buy Ronaldo and don’t know where to find the money,” said Sergio Marchi, head of the players’ union Futbolistas Argentinos Agremiados (FAA).
“Some are dealing with the (debt) issue and others aren’t. Many are behaving almost irresponsibly,” he said.
Defender Sebastian Dominguez of league champions Velez Sarsfield, a well run club, said: “What they (AFA) have to do is prohibit the clubs that owe money from signing players.”
Grondona said recently that “the situation in Argentine football is broken”, while Marchi said “the clubs did not read the credit crunch”.
Grondona sees a way out in greater revenue from television rights, online football pools and the government taking on the costs of policing matches currently funded by the home clubs.
“The closest solution, given the time factor, is an increase in the rights for TV,” Fernando Maron, president of Lanus, with Estudiantes and Velez one of the three best run clubs in Argentina.
“There is a lot of use (they get out) of the football product and this is not being rewarded,” he said.
Marcelo Bombau, chairman of TyC, the company that owns those rights, hit back: “Television is no longer going to be the cow that is milked by the clubs. Television has offered the AFA an advance so the clubs can pay their debts and the championship can start.”
The AFA is optimistic, however, that it will get a revised, improved deal from television this week and can announce at its Tuesday executive committee meeting that the championship will start on the Friday.
“It suits television, the players, the state and the clubs, all the interested parties, for the football to start,” Estudiantes president Ruben Filipas said.
PHOTO: Argentine soccer team coach Diego Maradona reacts after Ecuador’s soccer team scored during their World Cup 2010 qualifying match in Quito June 10, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Granja