Media reports from Argentina this week suggested clashes between rival Barra factions in Argentina. Reporting on this, and reviewing a rotten few days for Estudiantes; Sam Kelly.
It's been an interesting week in the Argentine football world, and several clubs will be eagerly waiting for the weekend's football action to start, so they can put behind them some of the developments of the past few days. Estudiantes, who a year ago stood with the continent at their feet after winning the 2009 Copa Libertadores, were humbled last weekend by newly promoted All Boys (who added a second big scalp to their defeat of Boca Juniors a few weeks earlier), and on Wednesday night exited the Copa Sudamericana – the continent's second-string tournament – to Newell's Old Boys.
Estudiantes haven't had the most topsy-turvy of weeks though, because on Monday, owing to the building pressure and the results last weekend had brought, no fewer than three top flight managers resigned their positions. One of them – Independiente's Daniel Garnero – even took his sporting director down with him, after the club's board decided to lay all the blame for an unsuccessful appointment on César Luis Menotti, the legendary former manager who led Argentina to glory in the 1978 World Cup.
Colón's Antonio Mohamed also walked, against the wishes of his board and his players, feeling he couldn't offer any more to the job, and Huracán manager Héctor Rivoira uttered very similar words when taking his leave of Huracán. The latter have moved quickly to get a replacement – fan favourite Miguel Ángel Brindisi returns to the club he's supported since childhood – but Independiente and Colón will both be playing this weekend's matches with interim coaches, although in Colón's case Fernando Gamboa will take charge of the first team on Monday, after watching from the stands when his new side take on league leaders San Lorenzo.
With so many new managers coming in, it's going to be a nightmare predicting what might happen results-wise in the next couple of rounds. Independiente look particularly in need of a breath of fresh air, and club president Julio Comparada's initial thought was to approach Américo 'Tolo' Gallego, the man Garnero had replaced on Menotti's advice after the Torneo Clausura, when Independiente were pipped to the title courtesy of throwing away a 3-2 injury time lead to lose an amazing match 4-3 to Argentinos Juniors – who went on to win the title the following week – in the penultimate round of matches.
Gallego turned down the job offer, though, and I'm inclined to think he's made the right choice. He's managed Independiente on two occasions now, and both times Comparada turned to him in an hour of need, when no other obvious candidates were around, rather than giving Gallego the confidence of making him his first choice. The favourite to take the job is now Nery Pumpido, who's admitted it will be 'almost impossible' to turn the position down, but still hasn't accepted it in spite of a three hour long conversation with Comparada on Thursday. The plot thickens...
All Boys, flying high after deservedly seeing off Estudiantes in Floresta, will be hoping for another good result away to Lanús on Saturday. I said before the season started that their main problem early on would be a fiendishly difficult set of opening fixtures, but since beating Boca they've not looked back – they've got twelve points from their first seven matches, which is enough to put them way up in sixth place in the average points table. They're unlikely to mount a title challenge (although after the way they played on Sunday, a match I was present at, I wouldn't entirely rule it out if they have a few lucky decisions), but look to have more than enough about them to stay in the division this season.
Boca Juniors, meanwhile, will be settling back to the mundanity of on-pitch life with Juan Román Riquelme after a week in which the playmaking maestro started training with the first team again after a long injury layoff. He's hopeful of returning to action in the eleventh round, when Boca will be at home to Huracán. His great friend (that's sarcasm, that) Martín Palermo is the focal point for now though, having scored a hat-trick in Sunday's match against Colón, in which he demonstrated all the qualities which make up his legend – including yet another hilariously missed penalty. Boca have now won 3-1 after falling behind twice in a row (away to Olimpo the weekend before), and suddenly Claudio Borghi's job looks much more secure. They've got a stern test this weekend away to Estudiantes, and will be hopeful that the La Plata club's dreadful last week carries on for just one match longer.
Finally, I'd like to correct a story some of you may have picked up on news feeds, or if you read Spanish, on Argentine news sites. There was a fight outside the stadium prior to Sunday's All Boys vs Estudiantes match, which started when the coaches carrying Estudiantes' fans to the ground took a wrong turn and ended up crossing the street All Boys' fans were approaching the stadium on by foot. I was close enough to it that, had it happened thirty seconds earlier, I'd have been caught in the middle of it, and it was reported across the Argentine media as a battle between the two clubs' barra bravas (hooligan gangs, broadly translated).
It was in fact a clash between Estudiantes' barra and an ordinary group of All Boys fans – it was only minutes before kick off, and the home side's barra were already inside the stadium. Newspaper Crónica published photos the following morning of Estudiantes barras holding guns – guns which mercifully weren't fired. The match otherwise passed off without incident, but the fact that no arrests were made and no-one was prevented from entering the stadium after the fight might raise a few eyebrows among those who are reading from the Anglophone world or western Europe. Here's hoping the coming weekend is a more peaceful one.
Sam also writes for Soccernet and When Saturday Comes, and you can follow all the day-to-day action at his blog Hasta El Gol Siempre during the Argentine season. In addition, you can hear Sam discussing Argentine football with the the team at Cafe Calcio! here.