The relegation head-to-head gets going

Colón vs. Racing in the clash to avoid the relegation playoffs may still be over a week off, but the off-pitch battle has already begun. La Academia have been angered after the Santa Fé club’s decision to use their home advantage to the greatest possible degree by giving them only 2,200 away tickets. Meanwhile, former Racing boss Reinaldo Merlo is going to Ecuador’s Barcelona de Guayaquil.

The number of tickets allowed for Racing in the final day, winner-takes-all clash has disappointed many at the Avellaneda club. It’s half the total that River Plate were allowed when they visited Colón a couple of weeks ago, and the reduced capacity is apparently due to Colón’s petition to the authorities to treat the high-pressure match as ‘high risk’. And, it’s got to be said, they might have a point – not that many of the media in Argentina are looking at it that way, regardless of the endless articles they publish about the country needing to tighten up security arrangements following every new death or riot in the stands.

It’s frustrating for Racing’s fans and for the players too, who’ll be missing that support. Claudio Yacob told the press; ‘They want to come and see us and very few can. But in Santa Fé things will be fine, because our fans shout louder than any others.’ José Shaffer hit a similar note, with his comment that, ‘I don’t understand… when teams come to play us, we give them the whole of the away end… [our fans] are going to travel anyway, I can’t imagine how many will be in the gates to the stadium.’ He apparently doesn’t see the potential danger in that situation. Of the players who spoke publicly on the issue, only Maxi Moralez hit the right tone. ‘It’s a pain,’ the youngster said, ‘but if it’s for security, what can we do?’

Manager Juan Manuel Llop also put things sensibly when talking to his squad. ‘On the pitch it’s going to be eleven versus eleven. The ones in the stands or outside the ground aren’t kicking the ball. The fans help, but if 50,000 of them travel with us, they’re not going to score a goal. It’s us who have to work for the victory.’

Reinaldo ‘Mostaza‘ Merlo, meanwhile, is moving on to pastures new: he’s trying his hand in charge of Barcelona de Guayaquil, Ecuador’s biggest club. Barcelona have a good history with Argentine bosses – their last four titles have come under them – and currently have a number of players with whom Merlo will be familiar, including Chelo Delgado and Rolando Zárate. The fact that they’re actually willing to employ the man, though, might suggest they didn’t see what he did to River and Racing in his most recent spells in charge of those two clubs…

12 thoughts on “The relegation head-to-head gets going

  1. The historic nature of the Boca/River “Super Classico” is well known throughout the world, but I wonder if you could provide some background to that between Independiente and Racing Club?

    I was astonished to learn that the stadiums of each club were so close together. Being Scottish, most folk here (and in the UK) would probably think the 2 Dundee clubs, who are separated by about 200 yards on the same street, are the nearest neighbours in the football world, but the Avallaneda clubs must run them fairly close.

    Given this close proximity, it wouldn’t appear that the support for each club is based on geographical factors, or is the location of the respective stadia misleading in this regard? Also, can you provide any background to the Rojo Diablo’s first club crest, as given the wide British involvement in the development of Argentina in the 19th and early 20th centuries, I could be forgiven for mistaking it as representing a Scottish influence (or maybe not, as the case may be).

    Incidentally, Independiente was one of the first foreign clubs I learned the name of as a 7/8 year old in the mid-sixties and it remains a mystery to me to this day where I learned it from (most likely because of it’s Libertadores wins, though if so, how I picked up on it is curious, as any coverage in the Scottish media at that time would have been sparse), and my friends were convinced I was making it up. Racing Club, everyone knew about from their matches against Celtic, and although not fondly remembered by those of a green persuasion, I retain a fondness for, having spared me as Rangers fan a lifetime of one-upmanship.

    I enjoy the site immensely and keep up the sterling work. Since Channel 5 has curtailed it’s coverage of the Primera Division (to accommodate “American Sport” – Nascar, I ask you!), I’m ever reliant on you providing all the news from, probably, the best footy league in the world.



  2. Thanks for the comments, Gary. I’m afraid I can’t provide any history on the Avellaneda clásico until next week because I’m going to London this weekend and won’t be near an internet-connected computer until (I hope) Monday, to write up the Ecuador match. I’m currently at work, leaving in one hour and getting straight on the train. Still, I can think of at least one regular commenter who might be able to enlighten you a little in my absence…

    As for the Independiente club crest, it originally belonged to Saint Andrew’s FC, one of the earliest champions of the amateur league in Argentina, and was adapted by Plate United F.C., who after their dissolution donated their old shirts to the newly-formed Independiente – who added ‘I.F.C.’ to the badge (Independiente Football Club, in English).

  3. Hey Gary! Thanks for the good luck wishes and for showing interested in the most important derby match of all (I’m talking as a Racing fan. I know there are bigger derbies in the country and the world, but the most important for me is that one).

    Now…I don’t know exactly what’s the distance between Racing and Independiente’s stadiums, but I’m sure both are bigger than the Dundee’s clubs. As we speak, Independiente are rebuilding their stadium and its capacity will be lowered, but it will still hold something like 40k or 45k people. While Racing stadiums has a capacity of 50k or 55k.

    A quick fact about Independiente and its grounds. When they built their old stadium (I believe it was 1928 or something like that) it was the first concrete stadium in South America (or so they say! I haven’t checked!). Now that they are building a new one, I think it’ll be the first all-seater in Argentina.

    I believe the distance between the two is somewhere between 150 and 250 metres (but perhaps is closer to 150!).

    It is REALLY close. I think Google Earth is a great tool to actually see it yourself (without coming to Avellaneda!).

    It’s funny how you have a blurred memory of how you picked up the name Independiente! There are things when we are little boys that simply get printed in our brain and years after we wonder how the hell did they get there in the first place.

    Regarding the fan base and the support for both Racing and Independiente, it isn’t necessarily local. Being two of the big 5 clubs in Argentina, both of them have fans all over the country (not to the extent of Boca and River, but they do have fans in every province).

    Now for a extrange reason, in the province of Mendoza, closer to Chile than it is to Buenos Aires (or Avellaneda for this matter), Independiente can probably argue to have more fans than Boca or River. That extrange reason is that there is a team from Mendoza called Independiente and local supporters, knowing their small club will probably never play in the top division have adopted Independiente de Avellaneda as their favourite club. That had a backlash from other small clubs in Mendoza and now there are a lot of Godoy Cruz or Desamparados’ supporters that follow Racing Club de Avellaneda!

    Sam was right with the story about Saint Andrew’s FC and I would add that there was no Scottish involvement at Independiente at all. Just the badge in the shirt. That’s it.

    For background on the Clásico de Avellaneda, you can start by reading the wikipedia article on it:

    I know Wikipedia is not the best of sources, but it can help a lot sometimes.

    I’m happy to help if you have any other questions.

  4. Oh….and one more thing about Colón v Racing, following the decision of giving Racing fans only 2000ish tickets for that important match, there’s an idea (still to be confirmed) to open the Cilindro (Racing stadium) and show the match on a big screen with every Racing fan being able to get in for free.

    Something like what happened in December, 2001 when the lucky ones (like myself!) were able to attend the match at Velez and the rest went to the Cilindro and we were the first set of fans to fill two +45k stadiums at the same time!

  5. I read on the Facebook group that some Union fans will turn up at the match on Sunday to support Racing, because they really want to play Colon in the promocion.
    Can they just turn up at the ticket office and buy tickets, pretending to be Colon fans, or would they have to have Colon membership?
    I’m starting to get nervous now for Racing, after the comparative relaxation of watching the Euros where I’m not too bothered who wins.

  6. I want to ask what will happen if two teams’s average points are level at the end of the season? For example if Colon – Racing match ends in a draw and Olimpo wins against Estudiantes than both Olimpo and Colon will have 1.1842 averages.

  7. Then Olimpo and Colon will play off and the loser plays the promocion.
    But hopefully Racing will win and we won’t have to bother with that! :)

  8. Hi Seba,

    Thanks for replying to my questions on the Avellaneda Classico!

    How do you feel about Independiente (and Boca) using the Cilindro whilst it’s own ground is being re-built, and more so, the Rojo Diablo’s fans using the same end of the ground as the Racing fanatics? Here in Scotland, supporters would be up in arms if their local rivals were allowed to share their ground, more so if they stood in the most historic area of it. Why don’t the Independiente fans use the same end of the Presidente Peron, as they would if playing Racing?

    Is the current predicament mostly due to the financial problems at the club? I saw some great footage on Youtube when you won the Clausura in 2001, with thousands of fans on the pitch in the Cilindro, but although that might be repeated shortly, celebrating escaping the drop, isn’t the same as a championship.

    The great thing about the advent of the internet, is that it opens up an entirely new opportunity to keep in daily contact with football all over the world. Some people are only interested in the club they support (and of course, their biggest rivals!), but I’m one of those who tries to keep abreast with everything going on across the football world.

    Here in the UK, apart from the Scottish football (mainly Rangers, or Celtic) and the English Premiership, you can regularly watch live games from the Spanish, Italian, German and French leagues, with highlights of the U.S. MLS, Dutch, and until fairly recently, the Argentine championship (which terrestrial Channel 5 has severely curtailed, much to my disappointment). Too much football on tv? NOT ENOUGH!

    Good luck against Colon!

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