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…