Going into the seventeenth round of fixtures in the Torneo Apertura, here’s a brief rundown of what’s been going on off the pitch in the last few days. Estudiantes, of course, leave for the UAE to take part in the Club World Cup this weekend, and they played their final domestic match of the year – a 0-0 draw at home to Chacarita Juniors – on Thursday night. Elsewhere, Juan Román Riquelme returned to training this week, ahead of schedule, but will miss the clásico with Independiente; Chacarita boss Fernando Gamboa’s been reassuring the press that he’s not leaving the club (again), days after a seventh manager did lose his job, and Tigre’s Rodolfo Arruabarrena announced his impending retirement. We’ve also had updates on the Aníbal Hay match-rigging rumour, and on the health of Fernando Cáceres following his attack last month.
Riquelme’s return to training wasn’t expected to happen until the new year following the inflammation in his foot which has kept him out after an ankle injury earlier in the campaign. He told reporters on Thursday that he still had some discomfort after training and thus wouldn’t be back in action on Saturday, when Boca host Independiente. The playmaker also talked of Boca’s ‘luck’ to have a manager of the stature of Alfio Basile, and insisted that in spite of the team’s poor form in 2009, Coco should be given the chance to turn it round. And about rumours a couple of weeks ago that he might move to Brazilian moneybags Corinthians in the new year? ‘I want to retire at Boca,’ he said, not for the first time.
At Chacarita, Fernando Gamboa only took charge earlier in the Apertura, but already there’s talk that the pressure of keeping the newly-promoted Funebreros in the Primera is getting to him. Following Thursday night’s draw against Estudiantes Gamboa was asked whether he was planning to stay around for the summer break, but he gave the question short shrift; ‘You’re Argentine, aren’t you? I answered that question a month ago. I’m going to continue as manager of Chacarita… we know it won’t be simple, but if we can get the six points left to play for this year we’ll put ourselves in a good position for the Clausura.’ Well, that’s them told.
Tigre left back Rodolfo Arruabarrena, who’s played for Boca Juniors in two spells as well as Rosario Central, AEK Athens and a seven-year stretch with Villarreal in Spain, announced on Tuesday that he’ll retire at the end of the Clausura. Whilst admitting Tigre are having a poor season by the incredible standards they’ve set themselves since gaining promotion only two years ago, he announced that he’s not got the energy to keep going as he used to any more. He’ll hang up his boots one month short of his 35th birthday.
Fernando Cáceres is improving slowly in hospital following an attack last month which left him with a bullet lodged in his eye. He’s expected to be transferred to a rehabilitation centre in a few weeks’ time. His brother Ramón told the press outside the hopsital on Tuesday; ‘He replies to us with hand gestures, and he’s starting to eat again.’
Thursday brought confirmation that the Argentine national side’s technical team will be represented at Friday’s group stage draw for the South Africa 2010 World Cup by ‘national team co-ordinator’ Carlos Bilardo. Manager Diego Maradona is banned from all footballing activities by the world governing body until the end of January, and there were some rumours that he’d try and sneak into the hall by getting a press accreditation. It seems this won’t happen, though. Keep an eye on ESPN Soccernet in the hours after the draw ends for a few words from me (and contributors covering other countries) on whether the draw has been cruel or kind to Argentina.
And Aníbal Hay, the AFA PR official who referee Cristian Faraoni claimed last weekend had pressured him into ‘allowing’ San Lorenzo to beat Atlético Tucumán on the opening day of the season, has announced that it’s all lies, damned lies. ‘I don’t believe there’s any telephone recording which incriminates me,’ he insisted, after also telling Radio La Red that he’d never received official word from the AFA about his suspension from his job. Faraoni ‘has broken a friendship which ends like so many relationships,’ he remarked. Aníbal Hay does, in his defence, have a magnificent moustache.