The start of the season

No, not in the Primera. Sunday saw the first competitive football of 2010 in Argentina, but it didn’t come in the form of a particularly tasty Torneo de Verano match. The Torneos del Interior, the third division of the non-affiliated Torneos Argentinos, kicked off this weekend. There’ll be matches stretching from the Bolivian borderlands right down to the end of the world, where clubs from Ushuaia, the world’s most southerly city, form one of the zones along with a southerly outpost of Real Madrid.

There’s a little bit of history at both ends of the country, because for the first time all four Ushuaian clubs will be competing, and it’s also the first season in which both sides from La Quiaca – the high-altitude town Daniel Passarella took his selección squad for high-altitude training prior to taking on Bolivia during qualifying for France 98 – will be taking part in an official tournament. La Quiaca, at 3,500 metres, is only 100 metres lower than the stadium in La Paz, and its sides have never taken part at an official level before. Diego Cosmi Giardina, the president of Sportivo Libertad, announced that, ‘Sunday will mark a before and after [in Quiacan football].’

In Ushuaia, meanwhile, matches were being played on an artificial surface as the city’s two clubs – Los Andes Juniors and Los Cuervos – form one of the zones in the Torneo along with Real Madrid and Estrella Austral, both of Río Grande Province. As Buenos Aires bakes in 40+ degree celcius temperatures, the snow in the south is still preventing proper grass pitches from being playable at present. Advice for those planning holidays to Argentina: do not visit Tierra del Fuego in midwinter.

The Torneo del Interior is often incorrectly (but not misleadingly) referred to as the Torneo Argentino C, forming as it does the third tier of the non-affiliated divisions in the AFA’s league pyramid – it’s the equivalent level, then, to the Primera D (see the ‘History’ tab at the top of the page if you want to see a diagram of this system). The system for this year is as follows:

293 clubs are playing in this year’s competition, with as many as six places up for grabs for promotion to the Argentino B. The clubs are divided geographically into groups of three or four – 59 of these Zones will consist of four teams (including the Zones featuring our friends from Ushuaia and La Quiaca), and 19 of the Zones will feature three teams. In both cases they’ll play each other home and away, with goal difference, goals scored and head to head results used to separate sides level on points, and the drawing of lots if it’s still a dead heat after that. The top two sides from each Zone will go into a knockout system which, along with some other sides being allowed in later, will eventually get us down to three finals. The winners of each of those will go directly into next season’s Argentino B, with the losing finalists getting the chance to play a Promoción with the unlucky playoff-bound sides from that division.

Notable results on the first day of action included a 4-0 win for Hacoaj, the team of Tigre’s Jewish community, over Cefalier away from home, and a 5-2 win for Santamarina over Unión de Mar Del Plata. For a map of teams, province by province, you can click here to be taken to the incomparable Universo Fútbol, a Spanish-language site, but don’t be scared – just hover the mouse over the map of Argentina and a list of teams for the province you’re pointing at will appear.

You can now follow HEGS on Twitter (including updates during and between league matches and similar stories that might not go up on the site until later). I’ll keep mentioning this until I’m happy with the number of followers I’ve got, so save yourselves the misery and do it now.

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