Descending from on high

Raúl Ulloa was, until recently, one of the most elevated individuals in the Argentine Primera A. As president of Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy, he held the highest position at one of the league’s highest-altitude clubs. And on Sunday he resigned from that presidency, hence the absolutely dreadful pun in the headline, in fury at a refereeing performance which led him to state to the press: ‘I don’t want to be in football whilst [Saúl] Laverni continues refereeing.’

‘He addressed us,’ Ulloa continued, ‘as “Bolivians”.’ In Argentina that’s more or less equivalent to saying ‘second class citizens’, and the reported slight occured after the match as the home side’s players and president surrounded the ref to protest at his handling of the ocassion. Whilst Laverni did indeed have a bit of a shocker it has to be pointed out that his decisions didn’t really affect the final score (1-1 against Argentinos).

During the match he sent off both Gimnasia manager Omar Labruna and his assistant, Nelson Pumpido. He could also have shown red to Gimnasia midfielder Diego Mateo, who got away with two hard tackles other refs might have been less lenient with. All the same, the focus was on the reaction afterwards. As the players implored him to explain his decisions during the match, Laverni told them: ‘Stop bothering me, Bolivians!’

In a league which is no stranger to accusations of bias in favour of the Buenos Aires-based clubs, it’s an incendiary comment to make, particularly to direct it at players representing a team based very close to the Bolivian border, and Ulloa stepped down immediately after the match, speaking to the players in the dressing room before stepping out to announce his decision to the press with the words above. Marcelo Cuellar, the vicepresident, will take charge of a club who’ve just lost a president of 20 years’ standing. The club will make a report today to the AFA about the incident.

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