Doubts surround San Lorenzo v Tigre as political interests come into play again

The seventeenth round of the 2011 Torneo Apertura is already underway, with Estudiantes just having beaten All Boys 3-0 in La Plata, but it’s still not clear exactly when San Lorenzo v Tigre will be played. The argument over the day and time of the match (currently scheduled for 17:00 on Saturday) takes in the police and security forces, the national government, and the government of the City of Buenos Aires… as well as the current league leaders, Boca Juniors.

Tigre are the only side who can, mathematically speaking, still catch Boca Juniors at the top; Boca are nine points ahead of them with nine to play for. As such, both sides would normally play at the same time. On Sunday, though, as well as their match Boca also have their presidential elections, and that’s what’s caused the fuss. With the number of people who’ll be descending on La Bombonera both to vote and for the match itself all through the day, the security authorities claim they can’t provide police for both matches (which both take place in the city) at once.

The first modification, then, was for San Lorenzo v Tigre to be played on Saturday afternoon. Then it was Sunday morning. Then back to Saturday, where the AFA eventually decided to let it lie. The reasons behind it all, though, mean there’s no guarantee the match will be allowed to take place.

The national government were the people who initially announced the simultaneous security operations couldn’t take place; they have supported the AFA’s decision to move the match to Saturday, which means that, should Tigre fail to win, Boca’s fans will be going to the polls – and the stadium – the next day knowing their side will already be champions. In the eyes of Boca’s presidential challenger, Daniel Angelici, that would give an advantage in the polls to the incumbent president, Jorge Amor Ameal.

The reason for the wrangling between City and National government are that Angelici is backed by former Boca president Mauricio Macri. By one measure, at least, Macri is the most popular man in Buenos Aires; he’s now the Mayor of the city. Ameal, the quick-of-mind might by now have guessed, is the candidate favoured by the national government, who are bitterly opposed to Macri. It seems mad that the mere presidency of a football club can mean so much to competing political ideologues, but when we consider that Macri became Mayor largely off Boca’s enormous success during his presidency of the club – and that Boca fans make up roughly 1/3 of the Argentine population, and that Macri plans to run for the Presidency of the country in 2015 – things become a little clearer.

The city government, then, want to ensure that Boca’s title can’t be won before voting takes place (the polls will close just over an hour before Boca take on Banfield on Sunday; if Boca avoid defeat in that match, then regardless of Tigre’s result whenever they play, Boca will be champions), in order to help out Angelici. The national government (and therefore the AFA) want Tigre to play – and preferably not win – on Saturday, thus helping Ameal, the current president.

This all leads to a ridiculous situation where the match is programmed for 5pm tomorrow, and everyone involved insists it will go ahead, but where Macri’s Policia Metropolitana – the police force of the City of Buenos Aires – are widely expected to be waiting with city inspectors, whose job it is to pass the stadium fit to host the match, at San Lorenzo’s Nuevo Gasómetro stadium tomorrow when the officials and players (and fans, presumably) turn up for the match, to announce they can’t allow it to take place.

Watch this space…

UPDATE: The final paragraph initially stated that the Policia Federal are the city police force of Buenos Aires. That’s now been corrected; they’re the national force, and the City’s force are the Policia Metropolitana. Sorry for any confusion.

You can follow the latest news from the selección and Argentina’s foreign legion of players, as well as the domestic championship, River Plate’s first second division campaign in over a century and the ever entertaining/tragic/infuriating capers of Julio Grondona & chums direct from Buenos Aires with HEGS on Twitter. If you’ve not signed up yet you can do so here. You can also join the official HEGS Facebook group, to keep up to date with the latest posts on the blog and discuss things with other fans. You’ll find it here. And remember to bookmark Hand Of Pod, our Argentine football podcast, or if you prefer you can subscribe to it on iTunes here.

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