Sunday’s clásico rosarino saw the fourth managerial casualty of the season in Argentina, under probably the most worrying circumstances, as Newell’s boss Pablo Marini stepped down after threats from the club’s barra brava following the loss to Central. The influence the barras have over Argentine football generally is clearly too much, but at Newell’s it’s worse than at many clubs, and they have even been called the club’s ‘owners’ in the last few days. A casual visitor could be forgiven for thinking that the official website of La Hinchada Que Nunca Abandona is in fact the club’s official website, such is its sophistication and apparent closeness to the club hierarchy.
Away from the hooligans in Rosario, though, the good stuff is just beginning, because during the weeks to come Argentina has a spate of clásicos coming up that should showcase some of the best things about watching the beautiful game in the country – passion, goals galore, a fighting spirit, dramatic encounters and an electric atmosphere in the stands. If we’re lucky, one or two of the matches might even pass without any off-the-pitch incidents.
The Avellaneda derby which sees Racing host Independiente on the 25th November will be a very interesting affair, with Los Diablos Rojos riding high in the league table and Racing starting to find some sort of welcome mid-table obscurity after the unmitigated disaster that was their 2006-2007 season. Last season’s match at El Cilindro went ahead just fine, with Racing’s barra banned from their home stadium, as they were for all home games. The return at the Doble Visera, however, was called off midway through the second half – Independiente didn’t ban Racing’s hooligans and rioting in the stands when their team were losing resulted in the game’s cancellation.
With Racing fans recently mobilising in opposition to the club’s directorship, the clash with Independiente might take on even more significance, should supporters’ groups decide to use the team’s highest-profile match of the year as a further platform for publicity.
There’s a return for a true Argentine cult side to the world of the top flight clásicos, too, when Huracán visit San Lorenzo on the weekend of the 4th November, in a fixture that many would say has been missing from the calendar for too long. With El Globo doing pretty well so far in their first term back, and San Lorenzo enduring a slipshod defence of the title they won so wonderfully back in June, both sides could be going into the match in very unexpected league positions.
The La Plata derby at the Estadio Municipal, on the same weekend as the San Lorenzo – Huracán clash, will no doubt be well photographed by fans of both teams in our Flickr group, and will see Gimnasia, regardless of league position or ambitions for the rest of the season, still smarting after the historic 7-0 mauling they got from Estudiantes during the last Apertura. They won 2-1 in the reverse fixture during the Clausura, but a scoreline like that doesn’t get forgotten quickly.
But before all those, of course, there’s the big one, on the 7th October – the superclásico at the Estadio Monumental. Boca are chasing another league title, as ever. At the time of writing, River are four points off the pace and playing dreadfully when away – but have won all four of their opening home fixtures in imperious fashion, with Ariel Ortega driving them forward wonderfully whilst Fernando Belluschi holds a goal of the season contest with himself. For Boca, though, Martín Palermo is hell-bent on breaking the club’s all-time top scorers award, and Ever Banega and Leandro Gracián have formed an impressive partnership in midfield. If any side can visit the Monumental and take River on, it’s the Xeneizes, but River haven’t lost to Boca home or away in any of the last six meetings between the two sides.
Other clásicos to look forward to include Boca-San Lorenzo on the 3rd October, whilst the meeting of the two north-western clubs in the top flight, Gimnasia de Jujuy and San Martin de San Juan on the 25th November, is bound to be an interesting one. Hasta El Gol Siempre might be just left to simmer for the next six weeks, but the domestic scene in Argentina is going to start reaching the boil nicely when I return from my travels at the start of November.
I’m still absolutely livid at the Bravas who have driven Marini out of Newell’s. Stepping into the position with the team in the terrible form that Nery Pumpido left it, Marini was doing a credible job of turning the team around.
Now, from all I hear, no one wants the job, and I can’t say that I blame them.