Sunday, April 22, 2007
Caught in the Crossfire
The writing was surely on the wall for the game when Argentina arranged a friendly match with Switzerland in Basel for June 2. Expecting players to play two friendlies within four days, twenty hours’ flight apart, after a gruelling European season, was never going to be realistic.
The statement from the FFA on the matter contained a significant aside to the effect that the Switzerland game had been locked in after the match in Melbourne was organized. The information given here, for what it’s worth, supports that assertion.
What has not been made commonly known is that the Argentine football federation (the AFA) is now planning a further Euro friendly on June 6, in place of the Australia match. For Spanish-speaking readers, this article gives the details (and interestingly, it was penned on April 12 – almost a week before Australian fans were told that the match had been canned).
The truth may be that Australian fans have been caught in a crossfire between the AFA and their new partner, the Russian conglomerate Renova. The latter entered into an agreement with the AFA last year to organize a number of high-profile international friendlies for the albiceleste; the AFA would benefit to the tune of US$18 million, half of it up front, in return for Renova getting the highly lucrative international TV rights. (Again, my apologies to non-Spanish speakers - I've been unable to find a comprehensive report of the deal in English.)
It seemed a classic win-win situation. But there have already been a couple of problems with the whole thing, one of which is detailed here.
Another one is that at least seven of the players on a designated “list” of 30 crowd-pullers must be included in the Argentina side for the friendlies in question. This was apparently one of the factors that caused José Pekerman to quit as Argentina’s coach after the 2006 World Cup, and the current manager, Alfio Basile, is apparently none too happy with the stipulation either. So much so that Argentina played a friendly match against Chile last week, outside the auspices of Renova, and with (naturally) no European-based players taking part.
Could it be that Renova has now decided to play hardball with the AFA, and insist on another money-spinning European friendly in place of the mooted Australia game? Already a proposed match-up with England in late May has fallen through, and the Russians may be pressing for an alternative, pronto. Watch this space.
None of this will be any consolation to the many Australian fans who have forked over the money for the game already, and made their plans for travel to Melbourne. One can only hope that the FFA will seek some sort of compensation from their Argentinean counterparts, since it seems quite clear that the friendly has been cancelled solely at the behest of the latter.
I'm not sure. There certainly seems to be a good deal of secrecy surrounding the whole thing.
All I know is that, not surprisingly, the vast majority of the players on the list are Euro-based. Which must be frustrating for Basile, because he'll occasionally want to give local guys, who he can work with more often, a go in friendlies.
There are plenty of parallels with the Brazil Nike deal in this arrangement with Renova.
Who says that greed in football is limited to the clubs? ;-)
He's apparently very, very, keen on working with domestic-based players, ones he'll get a lot of time with and "coach" more than the overseas guys. Tim Vickery's saying that this was what he did in the early '90s, but that this was when the Argentine league had a lot more NT players, and that Basile is perhaps struggling to move on with the times.
Would be nice to know what Basile thought of the Australia friendly, and what sort of team he himself intended on playing with the upcoming Copa America in mind.