By Billy Folley,
During the past number of years Argentine fans have been bemoaning the standard of fare in the Primera A. Defensive minded coaches,the exodus of top players to Europe and even the apparent decline in the previously unlimited supply of wonderful new attacking talent. Throw in the decline in standards at the big popular clubs most notably in the countries most successful team River Plate and we get an idea of how most fans in the country were feeling. The league so used to dominating the Copa Libertadores and having the most World club championships felt itself in permanent decline. Brazils economic might saw its clubs repatriating stars from Europe initially with some star veterans but soon players currently in the selecao began to return. After Estudiantes win in 2009 the Libertadores has been won three years in succession by Internacional, Santos and Corinthians.
The World youth championship wins long dominated by Argentina with a succession of star laden teams came to an abrupt halt.In 2005 the Albiceleste World champions could count on a certain Leonel Messi, Fernando Gago, Ezequiel Garay, Pablo Zabaleta and Kun Agüero. 2007 would again see Agüero lead the line this time supported by the likes of Di Maria, Banega, Sergio Romero.
However after that the standards have fallen dramatically culminating this year when the South American championship held in Argentina saw the hosts fail even to qualify for the World cup finals being held in Turkey this year.Now it appeared that the leagues saving grace its wonderful young talent was even being eroded.Yet on the contrary the opposite seems to be happening the fans are being optimistic again and crowds are up.Attacking “futbol”is back in fashion and a certain pride is coming back.You may ask why is this suddenly happening.
Well the reasons are varied but as seen earlier in Brazil economics has a role to play. As Europes economy declines and South Americas improves players are beginning to move in the opposite direction. Mauro Camoranesi probably started the “vuelta”. The Italian World cup winner in 2006 joined Lanus in 2011 aged 33. David Trezeguet (34) French World cup winner joined in the effort to return River to its former glory six months later. Soon Gabriel Heintze would join his former club Newells Old Boys and a trend started to appear.Younger players started to return Maxi Rodriguez(31) joined Newells but this Summer(winter in Europe)current internationals began to appear. Champions Velez Sarsfield brought key Argentina midfielder Fernando Gago (26) from Valencia, Boca brought forward Juan Manuel Martinez (27) from Corinthians and Racing obtained the signature of Mario Bolatti (27) from Internacional.
River Plates return to the Primera has also had an invigorating effect. The clubs descent to the Nacional B didnt dampen its fans passion but reinvented it.Membership has soared to over 110,000 and at every home game the Estadio Monumental attracts over 60000 fans.This would be more but for the allocation to away teams(requires a part of the stadium be empty) as Rivers members have to go through a lottery to obtain tickets both home and away.Needless to say Bocas “hinchada” has had to respond to its rivals show of loyalty.
Top coaches Ramon Diaz (River Plate) and Carlos Bianchi (Boca) return is another factor. Both hugely popular with their fans have brought renewed enthusiasm to both clubs exemplified by packed houses at all three Superclasico friendlies in the summer each played far from Buenos Aires.
Champions Velez Sarsfield under “tecnico”Ricardo Gareca have done much to give the fans some pride.Velez a relatively small club with an excellent stadium and training facilities compared to the best in Europe play in a manner which Spanish fans would love.Indeed it appears they do as up to now River and Boca games games were the only ones shown live every week on Spanish Television but now the South American version of tiki taka can be seen regularly by Spanish aficionados.
26 goals in week one of the Torneo final and wins for the big two plus Velez and a very entertaining Lanus will see the new found optimism only increase.