Just one big story in Argentina on Tuesday, but my word, as the proverbial milkmaid said to the parson, what a big one it is. Julio Grondona, the friend of dictators and democrats, the fat, corrupt old man who has bestrode Argentine football like a behemoth and used it as his own personal piggy bank since he was first made president of the Argentine FA in 1979, announced on Tuesday that he won’t run for re-election when his current mandate ends in 2015. ‘It’s time for the youngsters to have a go,’ he said.
Grondona has often said that the only way he’ll leave the AFA will be in a coffin, and that’s likely to remain true, officially at least – chances are high that he’ll be given an honorary life presidency. But with him not getting any younger, and the emotional pain of having lost his wife last year still hurting, he made the surprising declaration on radio this morning.
It’s unlikely to mean a clean break; whoever takes over as president will surely be one of the men in Grondona’s current inner circle (Colón president Germán Lerche, Arsenal de Sarandí VP Miguel Ángel Silva and Lanús president Alejandro Maron will all be high up the list, and all hold official AFA positions at present), but symbolically at least, it’s bound to be welcomed as good news by fans in Argentina, many of whom can scarcely – or not at all – remember a time when Argentine football wasn’t run by Grondona.
We’ll be discussing this among other things in episode 89 of Hand Of Pod, which is being recorded this evening and will be online by Wednesday evening. I’ll also have a piece in the next issue of UK magazine When Saturday Comes on Grondona’s announcement.